Phoenix Open is a place for new, old memories for veteran attendees

Fans gather around the 10th hole at the Waste Management Phoenix Open on Feb. 11. The tournament is the best-attended event in golf. (Alyssa Muir/MEDILL)

By Alyssa Muir
Medill Reports

SCOTSDALDE, Ariz. — Bob Beier remembers attending the Waste Management Phoenix Open when it was held at the Phoenix Country Club rather than TPC Scottsdale. He fondly recalls watching Johnny Miller win the tournament in 1974 and 1975. He was in attendance before the bleachers and the skybox were put into place at the 16th hole and remembers being able to see that hole, the green on the 10th hole and the tee box on the 17th hole all at once from the stands behind 16.

And over four decades later, Beier is still coming back for more.

“It’s just a good time every year,” he said. “The layout is great. There’s a lot of viewing spots when you walk around. Some golf courses are so flat you can’t really get a good view. They’ve really designed it well.”

Similarly, Ken Swenson, a good friend of Beier’s, said he has been coming to the Phoenix Open on and off for over 15 years. And each time has brought about a completely different experience.

“It’s amazing that every time you come back, there are so many new things on the course,” Swenson said. “They just keep enhancing everything: the grandstands, the amount of people, the viewing.”

And for Swenson, the unique atmosphere is equally as fun for what he calls “a couple old hacker golfers” like Beier and himself as it is for the people who choose to drink more than they watch the golfers.

“I like the party atmosphere myself,” Swenson said. “I like all the crowds. It’s great to see so much passion around the sport.”

Beier echoes that sentiment.

“I think it’s great for the game,” Beier said. “This environment is great for growing the sport.”

Since the 1970s, the event has become the best-attended one in the sport, the skybox has been built and the 16th hole has become a famous party spot. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the love of the Phoenix Open that these two men share.

“It’s amazing every year to just watch the concentration and skill level of these golfers,” Swenson said. “And then to see and hear all these fans get so excited. It’s just all so fun.”

Alyssa Muir is a sports reporter at Medill from Tampa, Florida. You can follow Alyssa on Twitter at @alyssa_muir21.