Life is a ticking time bomb for tourney chairman - East Valley Tribune: News

Life is a ticking time bomb for tourney chairman

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Posted: Wednesday, February 2, 2005 5:41 am | Updated: 9:39 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

It’s 8 a.m. Monday. The FBR Open will begin in 72 hours, and I’m in the office of tournament chairman Bryon Carney.

I want to chronicle the chaos that must be Carney’s life so close to kickoff. The tournament has been a year in the planning and Carney has worked thousands of hours to make sure everything is just right, but in an event of the Open’s magnitude, something always goes wrong.

I expect Carney to be in full sweat, ironing out last-minute details and dealing with unexpected twists. Maybe even on his knees, praying for sunny skies.

Instead, he looks like a man who just finished a gourmet meal and is about to take a moonlit walk on the beach. The Phoenix Thunderbirds are old hands at running the golf tournament, and Carney has a steady hand on the wheel.

"I’m pretty calm," Carney says. "We’re in executing mode now."

It took Carney a year to get to this point. He started his job on the 18th green on Sunday of last year’s Open, taking the microphone from thenchairman Greg Hoyt and telling fans, "Thanks for coming, I’ll see you next year."

Carney spent the next month filling out his assignment book, giving jobs to the 55 active Thunderbirds and approximately 100 Life Thunderbirds who oversee various aspects of the Open, such as the corporate village, the merchandise tent, etc.

The book became his Bible. And on the first day, Carney realized he couldn’t do it all by himself.

"I spent so much time on the assignments so I could delegate and trust people," Carney said. "Otherwise, the job is too big."

By April, Carney was spending one day a week preparing for the Open. Soon, it was a couple of days a week. Around Thanksgiving it became a full-time job.

"That’s where it went out of balance," said Carney, who took time off from his day job, managing principal and partowner of Grubb & Ellis, a commercial real estate firm. "I would wake up at 4 a.m., and that was it. Once you woke up your mind was filled with ideas and worries."

Yours would be, too, if you were responsible for 4,500 volunteers, 155 Thunderbirds, myriad issues such as security, transportation, skyboxes, concessions, etc., and, somewhere near the top of the list, keeping PGA Tour pros happy.

Last Sunday night, for example, Carney and assistant chairman Mike Haenel were on their way to a television interview when Haenel got a call from Jay Haas.

Haas wanted a double room for himself and his son, Bill Haas, both of whom are playing in the Open.

"We made some calls, figured it out and got it done," Carney said.

Hotel rooms can be handled. It’s the uncontrollable elements that will drive sane men crazy.

Like the weather.

The recent rains may be good for the Valley, but they’ve made Carney’s life miserable. The dirt parking lots around the Tournament Players Club course in Scottsdale became mud bogs. The course itself became difficult to manage because the grass was so wet it couldn’t be cut.

Carney became so paranoid about the weather raining on the Open’s parade that he changed his television viewing habits.

"Everybody else is watching ‘Desperate Housewives.’ I’m watching the Weather Channel," he said.

Fortunately, as Carney sits in his office on Monday morning, the long-range forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with temperatures in the low 70s.

Relieved, Carney begins his rounds, accompanied by Thunderbirds executive director John Bridger. He’s looking for brushfires that need extinguishing.

Bridger tells him the CBS tower constructed to the right of the 18th green is blocking the view of two tables in the Merrill Lynch skybox. The two men climb up the stairs to the skybox, take in the view and decide the tables should be moved.

A Thunderbird drives by in a cart.

"Did you fix the gallery rope on No. 16?" Carney asks.

On and on it goes. Somebody wants tickets. A couple of floorboards are loose in the corporate village. Garcia’s has set up its cocktail tables too close to the walking path along the food court. Nike and PING are squabbling over a banner Nike has put up near the expo tent.

Fortunately, the fixes are minor in nature. There’s no crisis to ruin Carney’s day.

"If it was raining it would be a completely different story," he says.

After touring the course for a couple of hours, Carney answers some 50 phone calls and e-mails, scarfs a brownie for lunch and sits in on a short meeting regarding security matters — 1,350 volunteers and more than 400 paid personnel protect and serve during the Open.

It’s about 2 p.m., and he needs to work on the speech he’ll give at Tuesday night’s FBR Opening Dinner.

I say goodbye. He’s ready to as well.

"You know those 15 minutes of fame?" he says. "I’m

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