About the WM Phoenix Open

History of the WM Phoenix Open

The WM Phoenix Open has been able to capture the wonder and amazement embodied by the great game of golf for the better part of a century. Take one step onto the course at TPC Scottsdale and you can feel the presence of the world’s greatest golfers from the past century like Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Jack Nicklaus, and Arnold Palmer. Their great achievements live on through the ambiance created by thousands of cheering fans eager to see hungry new athletes leave their own mark on history. The green grass, the beautiful February weather, the iconic saguaro cacti and the remarkable level of play are all reminders of where the game of golf has been and the great things the game has done for people around the globe.


The Phoenix Open began in 1932, but due to lack of local support, the tournament was discontinued after the 1935 event. The tournament was revived thanks to the energy and vision of one man, Bob Goldwater, Sr.  An avid golfer, Goldwater persuaded his fellow Thunderbirds into running the event, and his influential manner was successful. So, in 1939, Bob Goldwater’s new fledgling golf tournament was the official rebirth of the Phoenix Open.

Goldwater was left with most of the work, because his fellow Thunderbirds were not yet as enthusiastic about the event as he was. Never one to back down from a challenge, Goldwater printed the tickets, sold sponsorships and obtained use of Phoenix Country Club. He even invited a few of his friends to tee it up at the tournament. Those friends just happened to be Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and a golfer by the name of Ben Hogan.

“I loved those early years,” said Goldwater. “I look back on those days with a sense of pride mixed with wonderment.” And, yes, after a few more persuasive talks and the success of the 1939 Phoenix Open, The Thunderbirds came around and lent their full support.

During that 1939 tournament, a 27-year-old up-and-comer named Byron Nelson won the $700 first prize. Hogan finished second, 12 strokes back, and collected $450. Since then, The Thunderbirds have sponsored an Open every year except 1943, when wartime travel restrictions forced a one-year hiatus.

The list of professional golfers who have won in Phoenix reads like the golf Hall of Fame – Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Jimmy Demaret, Billy Casper, Gene Littler, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Miller Barber, Johnny Miller, Ben Crenshaw, and more recently Lee Janzen, Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson, Tom Lehman, Mark Calcavecchia, Kenny Perry, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler, just to name a few.

Over the tournament’s nearly 90-year history, the Open has been known by many names, including the Western Open, the Arizona Open, the Ben Hogan Invitational, the Phoenix Open, the FBR Open and now the WM Phoenix Open. The tournament has been played at Phoenix Country Club, Arizona Country Club and TPC Scottsdale – the home course of the tournament since 1987 – and 2024 will mark the 37th consecutive year the tournament has been played at TPC Scottsdale. Aside from the TPC Sawgrass, TPC Scottsdale has the longest continuous stretch a Tournament Players Club has hosted a PGA TOUR event.

For a closer look at past champions, tournament results as well as Open records and statistics, please visit the statistics and record book section under the Spectator Info tab on the website.

About The Thunderbirds

From caring for the underprivileged to helping those striving to make the United States Olympic teams, The Thunderbirds – hosts of the WM Phoenix Open –  are doing all they can to make a difference for those who call Phoenix their home. 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 active members – the number of current active members each year.


While The Thunderbirds’ association with professional athletes garners the most recognition and publicity, it is their work in the community that brings them the most satisfaction. Millions of dollars of Phoenix Open proceeds have been spent to benefit hundreds of organizations and individuals, most notably, the courageous athletes of the Special Olympics, youngsters of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Scottsdale, Phoenix and East Valley and the affiliated agencies of the Valley of the Sun United Way. As the premier sponsor of the Special Olympics Summer Games, The Thunderbirds are providing an outlet of athletic expression for these challenged competitors. Nowhere will you witness the absolute joy and enthusiasm of a runner as he or she crosses the finish line, not in first place, but in the arms of his or her greeter. This unbridled passion for competition speaks volumes of The Thunderbirds’ commitment to these determined individuals.

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 is 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 WM Phoenix Open or one of the many other Thunderbird-sponsored events. To date, there are nearly 350 members comprising The Thunderbirds organization.

Thunderbirds wear large silver pendants suspended on leather thongs, and each year a Bead Committee awards silver beads to those members who have performed their respective duties with quality and efficiency. Thunderbird-sponsored athletes participate in the entire spectrum of sports; but it is in golf that The Thunderbirds have had the most impact. Each year, The Thunderbirds sponsor The Thunderbird Collegiate Invitational. Now in its 37th year, this tournament is considered by many as the “WM Phoenix Open of Collegiate Golf.” It is a proven springboard into the PGA TOUR. Players like Bobby Clampett, Corey Pavin, Dan Forsman, Howard Twitty, Jim Carter, Notah Begay, Phil Mickelson, Steve Jones, Tiger Woods, Tom Purtzer and a host of others have participated in this illustrious event. Proceeds from the tournament benefit the men’s and women¹s golf programs at Arizona State University. Every summer, The Thunderbirds sponsor the Thunderbird Junior and Senior Golf Classics, which form the nucleus of one of the most extensive junior golf programs in the United States. These tournaments have showcased the talents of current PGA TOUR and LPGA stars like Billy Mayfair and Danielle Ammaccapane.

In 1999, The Thunderbirds, in conjunction with the American Junior Golf Association, held the inaugural Thunderbird International Junior at Grayhawk Golf Club. The first event of its kind in junior golf brought together a world-class field of Polo Golf All-Americans and U.S. and International champions of junior golf from throughout the world. This event will annually feature future champions of the golfing world. The Thunderbirds and The WM Phoenix Open form a winning combination whose success is matched only by its longevity.

About TPC Scottsdale

Located just outside of Scottsdale, Arizona and only a half hour from Phoenix, TPC Scottsdale offers two legendary championship courses both open to the public to enjoy – The Stadium Course and the Champions Course. The Club is the permanent home to the WM Phoenix Open, and hosts many other events throughout the year. TPC Scottsdale has been named “One of America’s Best Courses” by Golfweek Magazine, one of the “Top 50 Golf Resort Destinations in the World” by Condé Nast Traveler, and is consistently named one of the top courses in Arizona.

But unparalleled golf is just the start of what makes your TPC Scottsdale experience so extraordinary. As our guest, you’re invited to take advantage of all the services and amenities we offer:

  • PGA TOUR standard services and amenities in our clubhouses
  • Toro at TPC Scottsdale
  • Event hosting and planning
  • Annual Pass Program exclusive privileges
  • Luxury stays at our resort partners: The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, and the Scottsdale Marriott at McDowell Mountains
    And much more

TPC Scottsdale is also part of the PGA TOUR’s acclaimed TPC Network.

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