‘I didn’t realize how far out here it was’: In 1987, the first Phoenix Open was held at the then-remote TPC Scottsdale

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Phoenix Open was being held at the Tournament Players Club of Scottsdale for the first time and course designer Tom Weiskopf wanted to know what players thought of the place.

Tom Byrum had to think for a moment before answering.

“I guess all I could come up with was I didn’t realize how far out here it was,” Byrum recalled.

That was 1987. This week, the Open will return to the TPC Scottsdale for the 36th time. No one is questioning the locale anymore. Instead, the decision to move the tournament to the TPC has turned out to be one of the most inspired decisions in Arizona sports history.

“To have that be almost a Super Bowl every year for the Phoenix area. … I don’t think anybody anticipated that,” said former PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman.

How could they? At the time, all the Tour and the Phoenix Thunderbirds had in mind was finding a more spacious venue than Phoenix Country Club, which had hosted the tournament on a permanent basis since 1975. By the mid-1980s the galleries had overwhelmed the course; the Thunderbirds began selling disposable cardboard periscopes so fans in the back could see over the heads of those in front of them.

After considering several options, including a makeover of Papago Golf Course, a decision was made build a new course inside the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, near the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs in north Phoenix. Beman and the Thunderbirds found a willing partner in a land developer but when they went to the Phoenix City Council for approval, Beman said, “We got our head handed to us. It was no way, Jose.”

That’s when Beman got a call from then-Scottsdale mayor Herb Drinkwater. Drinkwater said he had a piece of land he wanted Beman to see. Beman flew into Scottsdale Airpark and Drinkwater picked him up. On the drive Beman told Drinkwater that it would be difficult for the Thunderbirds to move the tournament outside of the city of Phoenix.

When they arrived at the property Drinkwater said, “Do you know where we are right now?”

“Yeah,” Beman said. “The city of Scottsdale.”

Drinkwater drove across the street.

“You know where we are now?” he said.

“No,” Beman replied.

“You’re in the city of Phoenix,” Drinkwater said. “You’re going to give this opportunity up because of a couple of feet?”

Beman was sold. He had seen how PGA Tournaments held “in the boonies” as he put it, facilitated growth and he was convinced the Phoenix Open would do the same for north Scottsdale.

“It didn’t bother me that the golf course was sort of pretty far from where the center of things were,” Beman said.

Others were. Pete Scardello was the chairman for the first tournament at TPC, in January of ’87. In the months leading up to the event he’d have lunch a couple of times per week at Phoenix Country Club, where he was a member. Invariably, his lunch would be served with a side of derision.

“Other

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By: Golfweek
Title: ‘I didn't realize how far out here it was': In 1987, the first Phoenix Open was held at the then-remote TPC Scottsdale
Sourced From: golfweek.usatoday.com/2022/02/13/1987-tpc-scottsdale-location-phoenix-open/
Published Date: Sun, 13 Feb 2022 12:00:21 +0000

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