SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Scott Jenkins smiled as he admired his friend, Dr. Michael Golding, who was posing for photos under a scoreboard bearing his name.
Jenkins’ time as Waste Management Phoenix Open chairman had officially come to an end Sunday evening at TPC Scottsdale with the awarding of the championship trophy to Brooks Koepka, and it was time to revel a little in the accomplishment of making it to the end of a tournament unlike any other in its 86-year history.
Golding’s tenure begins as chairman for the 2022 event, which everyone involved hopes will be much closer to the way things were before the coronavirus pandemic changed so much.
“It’s been nine months of incredibly hard work to get here. A lot of roller coaster ups and downs, you know. Obviously COVID, we’re all trying to deal with it the best we can, and especially those Arizona spikes (in cases),” Jenkins said. “Just kind of staying committed to the plan. And then it got to Open week and then it was just about execution. I was never really worried about executing our plan because our group and our staff is the best. It was just getting off the tarmac, getting in the air and once we took off, we were going to be OK.”
Jenkins, assistant chairman Golding and the Thunderbirds got through a Phoenix Open that saw limited attendance, a less-rambunctious atmosphere at the notorious 16th hole and everywhere else, and the constant enforcement of wearing masks. Not to mention the absence of some activities typically available to the masses that attend annually.
Despite the undoubtedly different feel to the 2021 Phoenix Open, it was still the most-attended PGA Tour event in almost a year, with several thousand fans allowed on the course daily.
“There’s always silver linings in everything,” Jenkins said. “This just made us better at running this tournament. We had to look at different ways of being creative and just look at our expenses. It’s easy to deal with your partners when times are good.
“We really relied upon our partners, our vendors, as well as the (PGA) Tour and the city of Scottsdale.”
For Jenkins, seeing fans pay attention to washing hands, wearing masks and watching their distance was what stood out. If there was any doubt, he said, it was whether fans and officials would abide by protocols, and if enforcing those would be problematic.
It wasn’t an issue, Jenkins said. And all week, the players expressed their gratitude at having fans there to cheer them on.
“My best results come with fans, so I’m excited to have them back,” said tournament champion Brooks Koepka.
“They (players) recognize it’s not a sustainable model to continue to not have fans forever,” Jenkins said. “Thankfully, we were in a position, due to the success of our past tournaments, that we were pretty healthy and we were willing to take the risk and build even when things weren’t great.
“Ultimately if it didn’t make sense and we didn’t have fans, we were still going to have a structure on the 16th hole and do something cool there.”
Jenkins hopes things line up for Golding in terms of suites and hospitality.
Golding said he looks forward to bringing back the energy from 2020, but in a safe way.
“I think we’re going to bounce back,” Golding said. “It’s an honorable position to be the tournament chairman and I’m going to work as hard as I can to put on the best event possible next year.”
Golding credited the fans for wearing masks and thanked the community for continued support.
“Knowing that this year would be different, it’s daunting to try and get it back to normal, but I’m ready,” Golding said. “I’ve got 54 guys behind me that are ready to do that as well. You saw what we (Thunderbirds) did this week.
“There’s nothing we can’t do.”