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The Thunderbirds began in 1937, when the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce expanded its role as a convention and tourism bureau. There was a need for a special events committee to venture into new fields. Five young executives were selected to lead the committee. The Phoenix Chamber of Commerce suggested that the committee become an “official” group and expand its membership. Each of the five then selected ten additional members to make up a committee of 55. The Thunderbird name was chosen because the emblem of the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce was, and still is, a Thunderbird derived from American Indian symbols.
One of the early inductees was Bob Goldwater, an avid golfer. Goldwater thought it would be a great idea to sponsor a golf tournament. That first year, Goldwater sold the tickets, recruited volunteers and set up the golf course at the Phoenix Country Club. The Phoenix Open caught on, and in 79 years, has developed into one of the leading stops on the PGA TOUR. Goldwater was Tournament Chairman from 1934 through 1951 and is affectionately called the “Father of The Phoenix Open.” Active Thunderbird membership is limited to 55 members. Each has demonstrated a sincere interest in sports and a dedication to community affairs. All Thunderbird activities and events are the prime responsibility of these Active Thunderbirds and are under the watchful eye of the Big Chief and Thunderbird Council. When a Thunderbird reaches the age of 45, their status changes from Active to that of Life Member. Although they are relieved of continuous duties, it is not unusual to see a Life Thunderbird lending a helping hand at The Waste Management Phoenix Open or one of the many other Thunderbird-sponsored events. To date, there are over 300 members comprising The Thunderbirds organization.
To become an active Thunderbird you must be nominated by at least two “Active Thunderbirds.” Nominated persons are then voted upon by the 55 “Active” members.
Each and every year, the Waste Management Phoenix Open relies on thousands of volunteers and an abundance of community support to host a successful event. If you’d like to volunteer for the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open, please check back this fall to register as a volunteer.
The Thunderbirds have elected Tom King as Big Chief (president) of their organization for the 2014-2015 fiscal year.
John Bridger is the Executive Director of the organization. Bridger is responsible for the general management of the Waste Management Phoenix Open as well as directing the day-to-day operations for the Thunderbirds. Bridger is an Arkansas native and was raised in Wellton, Arizona. He is a graduate of Northern Arizona University and later went on to receive accreditation’s from Northwestern University and The University of Virginia. Prior to coming to The Thunderbirds, Bridger served as executive vice president for Bank of America in Dallas, Texas, and was directly responsible for more than 425 bank centers and 4,800 banking associates.
The Thunderbird roster and directory are not published for public viewing.