By Ken MacLeod
The Waste Management Phoenix Open exceeded its own attendance records during the recently concluded 2017 event, with a record total of 655,434 for the week, including single day records of 77,906 on Wednesday, 169,004 on Friday and 204,906 on Saturday.
It’s crazy to even contemplate those numbers on a golf course, let alone be right in the middle of it. The coordination needed to make sure those folks have a dynamic and fun experience and that facilities do not get overwhelmed is staggering.
Chance Cozby, the former University of Oklahoma All-American from Bartlesville, will be right in the middle of the fray for the next several years. Cozby, the vice president of player development for Ping, is a member of the highly-respected Thunderbirds charitable organization which runs the tournament. Last Thursday, he was named to be the tournament chairman in 2019.
“It’s exciting and a pretty significant commitment,” said Cozby, who has been a member of the Thunderbirds for seven years. “There’s really nothing else like this event. It’s special and unique.”
The Thunderbirds are charged with driving the corporate sales for the events, including the sky boxes and corporate venues lining the 16th, 17th and 18th holes. There are 330 sky boxes on the property which range from $47,000 to $65,000 for the tournament. All of those fans must have access to food, drink, restrooms, etc.
Cozby said it takes almost four months to construct the “city” for the tournament and another three months after to tear it down. Exact figures are not given out, but it is estimated the Thunderbirds help bring in excess of $40 million in revenue against expenses in excess of $30 million. The group did announce it raised $9.3 million in 2016 for various charities.
“We spend the rest of the year giving the money away, which is very gratifying,” Cozby said.
The Thunderbirds are a group of 55 active businessmen ages 33 to 45, most of them well connected and with a flair for sales. The group dates back to 1937 and was started by the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce. Cozby will be the assistant tournament chairman in 2018, followed by tournament chairman in 2019 and then a more ceremonial role as Big Chief in 2020.
“There is a fulltime staff at the office and they really drive the ship, but it’s still going to be significant time commitment,” Cozby said. “Ping has been very supportive, which is great.”
Cozby is the youngest son of former long-time Hillcrest Country Club head professional and 2016 Oklahoma Golf Hall of Fame inductee Jerry Cozby. His brothers Cary, director of golf at Southern Hills Country Club and 2016 PGA Professional of the Year, and Craig, a Ping club representative, all are mainstays in the golf business.
Chance is married and he and wife Erica have two sons, Campbell, age 12, and Catcher, 10. The two were the standard bearers for Louis Oosthuizen on Sunday when the South African shot a final-round 65.