The place to be – the 16th hole at 2017 Waste Management Phoenix Open at the TPC – Scottsdale, Feb. 2 – 5
By Dave Wells
The 16th hole at the TPC – Scottsdale’s Stadium Course has received plenty of recognition as the top party golf hole on the PGA Tour. This year’s tournament promises to add to the 16th hole’s reputation.
In February, the TPC – Scottsdale will celebrate its 30th anniversary. It’s expected that 20,000 fans – some bolstered by a beer or two – will surround the 16th hole and create a raucous party atmosphere with a massive amount of cheers and boos.
In the Beginning
In the 1980s, the Phoenix Thunderbirds organization was looking for a site to replace the Phoenix Country Club for its annual golf tournament. The popularity of golf was steadily growing and more space for tournament spectators was needed.
With the help of Scottsdale’s mayor, Herb Drinkwater, construction began in January 1986 at Scottsdale Tournament Players Club (TPC). Golf course architects Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish provided their talents in the design of the course. At that time, the 16th hole was a par 3, 163 yards, leading to a drivable, short, par 4 17th hole. The 18th hole was designed to be a tough par 4, featuring a water hazard on the left.
When the first tournament at TPC – Scottsdale was played in January 1987, the 16th hole did not have bleachers. Spectators sat on a grassy hill in back of the tee with the McDowell Mountains in the distant background. There was a beer and hot dog stand on a cart path to the right of the tee.
In my early days in Scottsdale, I can remember sitting there with perhaps 100 other spectators. Many of those spectators were Arizona State University (ASU) students, who made frequent visits to the nearby beer stand. Need I say more; it was not too long before the party spirit took over.
The Party Spirit Surprises
In those days, the PGA players didn’t seem to know how to handle the party spirit on the 16th tee. They didn’t smile and they directed tough, cool glances at the small gallery.
But the absence of smiles and the cool glances, didn’t stop the vocal group behind the tee from shouting out their humorous remarks. They didn’t shout during a player’s swing, only when the players approached the tee and were waiting for the group on the 16th green to finish putting.
Two funny incidents that I remember from those early days. The first was when Fred Funk approached the hole and the chant started, “May the Funk be with you.” The second incident was in the early 90s, during the Forrest Gump movie days. Scott Gump walked to the tee and the students shouted, “Run Forrest run.”
Memorable Moments: Woods and Mickelson
Now, let’s move a few years down the calendar to 1997. That is when appreciation of golf gained strength at the 16th. Why? Because, Tiger Woods made his famous hole-in-one there. Watch Video
There was not a more popular player in those days on the 16th than Phil Mickelson. Phil, then a recent ASU graduate, received accolade after accolade upon arriving on the 16th tee.
All you could hear was the loud chant, “ASU”, “ASU”, “ASU.” Forget the glare, Phil smiled and gave a thumbs-up sign to the spectators.
The 16th Hole Today
Today, the 16th hole at TPC – Scottsdale is enjoyed by many people, including TV viewers, the media, and on that one hole an estimated gallery of 20,000 spectators. Now bleachers, corporate tents, and sky boxes completely surround this magical party golf hole.
There have been other changes, Construction of seating on the 16th starts on October 1st each year, four months in advance of the tournament. Players now arrive through a tunnel from the 15th green laughing and enjoying the fans. Some players, after hitting their tee shots, even go to the spectator stands and supply hats and assorted gifts to cheering fans before they sprint to the 16th green in a race with their caddy.
And there’s more. How about Bubba Watson and Ben Crane singing entertainment on the 16th tee? Byron Nelson’s wife, Peggy, jokingly described the lyrics as “wasted management” subbing some words for the corporate sponsor of this annual PGA event, Waste Management Phoenix Open. Add to this Peter Jacobsen’s great golf song, “Hole N16.” Watch Video
Golf does not get any more enjoyable for a spectator than the 16th hole at TPC – Scottsdale, the top party golf hole on the PGA Tour. And the good news is that this unique golf experience will be repeated in a few weeks on February 2 – 5, 2017. Don’t miss it.
A Final Note from the Author
One quick story about the next hole, the 17th, at TPC – Scottsdale. It is a drivable 332 yard, par 4.
In 2001, Andrew Magee, coming off a double bogey on the 16th hole, teed up at the next hole. The threesome of Jerry Pate, Gary Nicklaus(Jack’s son), and Tom Byrum were still putting on the 17th green.
Magee’s hit a mammoth tee shot that rolled onto the green, hit Tom Byrum’s putter and rolled into the hole. The shot is the only hole-in-one ever recorded on a par 4 in PGA tour history.
Gary’s caddy, Rusty Uresti, later recalled that “It was the first putt Tom made all day.”
Related Web Site and Articles
Video: Watch Phoenix Open 16th Hole Highlights at Scottsdale TPC Video
Video: Watch “N16” by Peter Jacobson Video
TPPC – Scottsdale Website, https://tpc.com/scottsdale/waste-management/phoenix-open/
Waste Management Phoenix Open Website, https://wmphoenixopen.com