Everybody working the FBR Open Tuesday seemed to have a golf cart except me — and no one was offering rides.
So because this week at the Tournament Players Club of Scottsdale you either are a golf cart or are scooting out of the way of one, hoofing it to the 15th hole kept me weaving at a brisk pace.
But I had reason to quick-step it out to the 15th hole, even though I ended up being late for a brief ceremony.
What’s now known as the FBR Open is filled with so much pageantry and swarms of people it was likely hard to notice the gathering to honor the man known as “The Father of the Phoenix Open.”
The originator of the event that began in 1932 in Phoenix had the last name of Goldwater, and he wasn’t the most famous person in Arizona to have that last name.
And so, especially if you’re from somewhere else — and this week in Scottsdale, who isn’t? — you might know who Barry Goldwater was from social studies class, but unless you make golf your passion, you might know the name of Bob Goldwater Sr.
Goldwater, younger brother of the Republican U.S. senator from Arizona and 1964 GOP presidential nominee, died in November 2006 at 95.
The Thunderbirds, who stage the FBR each year, chose to honor their progenitor with a stone-and-concrete pedestrian bridge over a small lake that they dedicated Tuesday as Goldwater Bridge.
A small bronze plaque on a rock next to the bridge’s southern approach contains a photo of a young Bob Goldwater, a golf club slung over his right shoulder.
Most FBR tournament players will breeze past it, concentrating instead on wind direction and bunker locations.
But it appropriately honors Bob Goldwater, who had the vision decades ago to predict his little golf tournament with the $500 top prize would go places internationally, according to his nephew and Barry’s son, former U.S. Rep. Barry Goldwater Jr., R-Calif.
“He was full of stories. He made a statement one time that this would be the biggest event on the PGA Tour,” Barry Jr. said after the ceremony, adding that his uncle made these statements decades ago.
In the beginning, top golfers were trucked to Phoenix by bus from California and stayed not in hotels but in local homes. Such golf legends as Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan and movie stars like Clark Gable stayed at Barry Sr.’s home in Paradise Valley, Barry Jr. said.
But why a bridge? After the ceremony, Thunderbirds 2008 Tournament Chairman Tim Louis would only say that after a detailed discussion among fellow Thunderbirds, “It seemed like the right thing to do.”
Goldwater’s widow, Maggie, said a few minutes later that the new bridge is quite an improvement over the one there before. “It was just flat planks,” she said with a grin.
It’s a fine bridge, although at midday during FBR Open week it stands in the shadow of the ever-growing skybox-and-grandstand structure of the infamous 16th hole. The 16th is so well-known for being so loud Tiger Woods probably still twitches in his sleep at the echo of the roar, steeling his resolve to never return here.
And explains the big signs at the course entrance, warning of immediate ejection of any spectator who engages in “booing or cheering at inappropriate times.”
I never met Bob Goldwater. From what his nephew said he saw quite effectively into the future. His event is the biggest on the PGA Tour, by far having the largest crowds, despite its final round on Sunday competing with public attention to the Super Bowl, wherever it’s being played.
I’m still not sure he would have predicted the rowdy 16th and how it literally casts a shadow on the bridge bearing his name, but he probably would take it in stride, given what fame his little $500 event has bestowed upon our sun-splashed Valley since.