The Thunderbirds Organization

Who are The Thunderbirds?

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, the term “Never Life” was adopted in the early 2000’s as it is not unusual for Life Thunderbirds to remain very active at the tournament and other Thunderbird-sponsored events year-round. To date, there are nearly 350 members comprising The Thunderbirds organization.

How do I become a Thunderbird?

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.

Who is “The Big Chief?

The Thunderbirds have elected Pat Williams as Big Chief (president) of their organization for the 2022-2023 fiscal year.

Who is the “Executive Director of The Thunderbirds?

Chance Cozby is the Executive Director of The Thunderbirds and is responsible for the general management of the WM Phoenix Open as well as directing the day-to-day operations for The Thunderbirds. Cozby assumes the role of Executive Director after spending more than 20 years at PING, where he was responsible for player development, contract negotiations and management of the PING Worldwide Tour team. A member of The Thunderbirds since 2010, Cozby was the Tournament Chairman for the 2019 WM Phoenix Open and Big Chief of The Thunderbirds and President of Thunderbirds Charities in 2020.

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