The WM Phoenix Open: Chance Cozby on 'The Greatest Show in Grass'

A conversation with Chance Cozby, the 2019 tournament chairman

Chance Cozby has a long history with golf. He played for the Sooners golf team at the University of Oklahoma and works for PING Golf, where he is currently vice president of sports development. He joined the Thunderbirds, the hosts of the Waste Management Phoenix Open (WM Phoenix Open), in 2010. Here, he talks about the event known as the “Greatest Show on Grass.” 

For those who have never experienced it, describe the WM Phoenix Open...

The WM Phoenix Open is arguably the highest-attended professional golf event in the world, and known for the iconic 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale. The event began in 1932 at Phoenix Country Club but moved to TPC in 1987. It is a one-of-a-kind experience on the PGA Tour with hospitality, fan experience and energy that is unmatched in golf. 

Waste Management Phoenix Open

You are this year’s tournament chairman. What are some of your responsibilities as chairman?

As tournament chairman, I am involved in every aspect of the event. Some areas require more attention than others, but the experience is truly unique in that you see what it takes to put on the ‘Greatest and Greenest Show on Grass.’ Every aspect of the event brings value, so I try and give each the respect it deserves to ensure we have a successful event.

When do they start preparing the location?

The preparation began the Monday after the 2018 WMPO. I had lunch with the Thunderbird staff that day to congratulate them on an incredible job, and then we moved on to 2019. I met with Tim Woods, assistant tournament chairman, on Feb. 6 to start work on 2019, so it truly is a 12-month process. The physical build begins in early October. It takes about four months to build and three months to take down.

The Open is known for its eco-efforts. What are some?

We have an amazing title sponsor in Waste Management, and their message is simple: zero waste. The numbers are truly staggering—with over 700,000 people in attendance, we have 100 percent of our materials diverted from landfill. Fifty-six percent is recycled, 26 percent composted, 9 percent waste-to-energy and 9 percent donated. We are honored to work side-by-side with Waste Management and help them achieve their goals.

The Thunderbirds are the hosts of the tournament. What does that mean? 

The Thunderbirds have hosted the Phoenix Open since 1939, when Bob Goldwater, Sr. convinced his fellow Thunderbirds to help run the event. We are the host, and we are involved in every aspect of the event. From the time you park your car to the moment you leave the Birds Nest at night’s end, there is a Thunderbird who is responsible for all the details from start to finish.

Where happens with the money raised?

The money is distributed by Thunderbird Charities to hundreds of worthy organizations in Maricopa County. Our charitable give from the 2018 WM Phoenix Open was over $12.2 million, and we are proud to give back to the community that supports our event with such passion.

Any tips anyone should know about attending the event?

Respect the fans, respect the players, respect the game. Come see us, have a great time and know that you are supporting a great cause. If you want a seat at the coveted 16th hole, come early and run fast.  We also encourage people to carpool or use a ride share service. 

Personally, what is your favorite part of the Open?

The energy of the WM Phoenix Open is so strong, I simply love being on property and seeing the smiles on faces and our guests having a great time while watching the best players in the world compete for millions. Nothing like it!

Anyone you’re rooting for this year or any concert you’re looking forward to?

I manage the worldwide Tour program for PING Golf for my real job, so I would be lying that I am not pulling for a PING player to hold the trophy the year that I am tournament chairman. However, believe me, I will be proud to hand the winner’s check to the last man standing regardless of the player. As for the Birds Nest, each night has its own feel and I like them all. We have an incredible lineup so it will be a can’t-miss music festival.