Behind the Green: Thunderbirds gear up for 1-time PGA event - East Valley Tribune: Sports

Behind the Green: Thunderbirds gear up for 1-time PGA event

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Posted: Thursday, October 4, 2007 11:44 pm | Updated: 6:10 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Running a PGA Tour event is no easy task. Just ask the Thunderbirds, the civic organization that each year hosts the FBR Open and its hundreds of thousands of fans.

Then there is the Fry’s Electronics Open, which is here in the East Valley for only one year — and then it’s out of here! That’s a much more daunting task even if the man in charge, Greg Hoyt, is a former FBR Open tournament chairman and a longtime Thunderbird.

“It’s a whole different ballgame,’’ said Hoyt, who came out of retirement from his 2004 gig at the FBR Open to serve as tournament chairman for this inaugural Fall Series event, which — believe it or not! — tees off two weeks from today at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale.

Yeah, the Fry’s — don’t call it the FEO, Hoyt pleads — is much more of an up-and-down job, at least mentally.

“Well, it’s all good today,’’ Hoyt countered. “We just got the call that Phil (Mickelson) has committed — officially committed — and so has Robert Allenby, Tim Clark and John Rollins.

“I’m glad Phil finally signed on. That’s a big relief, and it’s a bonus to get Allenby, Clark and Rollins, too.’’

As far as the 132-man field for the $5 million tournament that pays $900,000 to the winner, it’s looking stellar. Besides Mickelson, Hoyt knows FBR Open champ Aaron Baddeley is in the field, along with such locals as Michael Allen, Mark Calcavecchia, Tom Lehman, Billy Mayfair, Arron Oberholser, Pat Perez, Ted Purdy, Jeff Quinney, Kevin Stadler and Kirk Triplett.

The list of noted veterans isn’t bad, either. Even though Davis Love III committed but had his season cut short by a severe ankle injury last week, there’s still Allenby, Clark, Rich Beem, John Daly, Steve Elkington, J.J. Henry, Tim Herron, Justin Leonard, Shigeki Maruyama, Rocco Mediate, Shaun Micheel, Ryan Moore, Sean O’Hair, Bob Tway, Bubba Watson and Mike Weir.

Actually, the field already is a given, a feather in Hoyt’s cap. The only thing left there is to give out the remaining seven exemptions, and that’s just a minor problem, as in who do you pick?

Still looming is a shortage of volunteers, and in that regard, Hoyt is sending out an urgent plea. “(Not having enough volunteers) really is a big deal,’’ said Hoyt, who is about 200 to 300 volunteers short of his projected number.

“We get so much great support from the volunteers for the FBR Open, I mean we have people who are getting pins for 20, 25 and even 30 years of past service.

“But when it comes to the Fry’s Electronics Open, this being new and all and only here for one year, well, they’ve been a little hard to find.’’

So were the buses that will transport people back and forth between the parking lots on the west side of Hayden Road just south of the Loop 101 to Grayhawk, which represents about a 10-minute trip.

“We had $50,000 earmarked for the buses, but what we discovered was there weren’t any big charter-like buses here in Arizona this time of year. They were all in southern California,’’ Hoyt reported. “We were going to have to go get them, drive them back ourselves, and it was going to cost more like $200,000.’’

But always the resourceful one, Hoyt had a plan, and it involved the Scottsdale Unified School District.

“I realized that Scottsdale was going to have their fall break the same week as our tournament,’’ he said. “So I worked out a deal with them so we can rent their buses for that week, and it won’t even cost $50,000.’’

There were some other shortcuts, like hiring Duck Soup to be the sole/soul entertainment each night at the Roadhouse, the Fry’s equivalent of the FBR Open’s notorious Birds Nest.

“Duck Soup will do great, and we’ll have a few guest appearances by some local celebrity musicians as well,’’ Hoyt said. “So it’s all good there, too.’’

As for how many fans will embrace the Fry’s Electronics Open, that also remains a mystery. “I’m hoping we’ll get 10,000 for Thursday, 12,000 for Friday and 12,000 to 15,000 for both Saturday and Sunday,’’ Hoyt said. “But we’ve never done this before, and you just never know.

“But both pro-ams are sold out, and I think the fans will turn out, too — just not in record numbers like the FBR Open.’’

Obviously, Hoyt is no soothsayer with visionary abilities. So when I asked him if he thought the tournament would be a boon or a bust, he was cautiously optimistic.

“I think it will make a little money, but not a lot,’’ he said. “Our real goal, however, is to give it every chance we can to be a success for that one year that we’ve got it.’’

Yeah, then the Fry’s Electronics Open is somebody else’s problem!

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