Thunderbirds step up with additional Waste Management Phoenix Open charitable contribution
March 26, 2020
By Jim McCabe, PGATOUR.COM
- The trophy is displayed during the final round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open. (Waste Management Phoenix Open)
Perspective needs a refocus. That is one of the many byproducts to the pandemic that has enveloped our world and created excruciating fear and pain.
That view of the Waste Management Phoenix Open from two months ago, for instance. You likely have a vision of the enclosed stadium at the par-3 16th, the incomparable hijinks and one-of-a-kind merriment that generates layers of attention and entertainment. It is unique, it is loud, and it is dynamic.
But right now, it is incumbent upon you to look at it differently. Perhaps refocus with a filter of the Boys and Girls Club of the Valley or any of the other four groups in dire need of help during this coronavirus crisis that were gifted charitable dollars to by what is at the heart and soul of the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
They aren’t ever on that stage at No. 16, but they are somewhere far more important. Standing in the shadows, supporting of their community always, but especially in a time of urgent need. Like right now.
“It highlights their generosity, that in this pandemic they’re thinking of others, thinking of those who need it most,” said Webb Simpson. Back on Feb. 2, Simpson defeated Tony Finau in a playoff, winning the WMPO with a closing rush of birdies.
So proud of the @WMPhoenixOpen. The Thunderbirds are donating $1 million to charities in need in the Phoenix area-the Boys & Girls Club, St. Mary’s Food Bank, and St. Vincent De Paul. What the Thunderbirds do each year is incredible, & I’m glad to be a part of it. #ThePeoplesOpen pic.twitter.com/MJbWdKZxkz— Webb Simpson (@webbsimpson1) March 20, 2020
Simpson and Finau, and everyone else at TPC Scottsdale, were basked in sunshine that day, but nearly two months later we are all gripped by uncertainty. Simpson, however, is sure of this: “That I love the (Waste Management) Phoenix Open for many reasons.”
Those reasons increased exponentially last week when it was announced that the Thunderbirds Council had approved a gift of $1 million to charities that had been severely affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. Last week, the initial gifts went to the Boys and Girls Club of the Valley, St. Mary’s Food Bank and St. Vincent de Paul. The Thunderbirds followed up this week with donations to both the The Human Services Campus and Family Promise of Greater Phoenix.
Impressive as the number is, it is even more so when you consider this: That this was “emergency community funding,” said Chance Cozby “and outside of the charitable funds that the Thunderbirds Charity will donate from the tournament. That giving is still to come.”
Cozby, the Executive Director of the WMPO and “Big Chief” of the Thunderbirds, had announced weeks ago that this year’s tournament would generate $14 million to Arizona charities. That the Thunderbirds Council – which manages The Thunderbirds – at its monthly meeting agreed to keep that number intact and earmark another $1 million in immediate emergency assistance adds yet another glowing chapter to the history of this philanthropic group that dates to 1937.
But it was community need, not applause, that led the Thunderbirds Council to act. “People needed help, and as quickly as we could offer it,” said Cozby, who used the Boys and Girls Club as a shining example.
“Many kids in the valley have parents who are considered to have ‘essential jobs.’ Maybe they’re firefighters or first-responders, but in any case, these kids need a place to go. It takes about $105,000 to keep the Boys and Girls Club open for a week, so that’s a lot of money.”
Similarly, Cozby said The Human Services Campus feeds and nourishes the homeless in downtown Phoenix. That need takes on a greater urgency during a crisis and it registered with the Thunderbirds Council. Ditto the opportunity to purchase 32 mattresses for the Family Promise of Greater Phoenix charity.
“When you look at all that has happened, we know we are fortunate because our tournament was played; it’s over,” said Cozby. “We can look in the rear-view mirror. It’s all so unbelievable.”
But instead of resting on yet another annual success, Cozby, his WMPO team, and the Thunderbirds stepped up. The move to offer $1 million in emergency charitable funds deserves a standing ovation, but Cozby would prefer it ignite a spark in the philanthropic arenas and remind people that the PGA TOUR has surpassed the $3 billion mark in charitable giving.
“We weren’t looking for recognition for this. We wanted zero,” Coxby said. “But we looked at it and thought if we could offer a feel-good story, maybe offer hope at a time when there hasn’t been much, then that would be worth it.”
These are, he concedes, challenging days, unprecedented times. But Cozby is of brilliant golf pedigree and knows what the sport and the PGA TOUR are capable of. His father, Jerry, is a member of the Oklahoma Golf Hall of Fame, a legendary club pro whose three sons – Cary, Craig, and Chance – all played at the University of Oklahoma and the quality and character run deep in this family.
“I’ve always felt that the PGA TOUR was one of the best, if not the best, at using its platform to raise charitable dollars for the community,” said Cozby. “So, if (providing $1 million in emergency funds) inspires others to give more, then it’s a win for the game of golf in general.”