The Thunderbirds in the Community – Rising to the Challenge
When we look back at 2020 from a sporting lens, we’ll likely point to March 11th as the day everything changed. That fateful date marked the beginning of a rapid, indefinite cancelation of nearly every sporting event on the planet. March Madness, gone. The Olympics were pushed to next year. And the PGA TOUR rushed to find their part in a solution to one of the greatest global challenges in recent history. The sporting world, of course, wasn’t the only hard-hit industry during the COVID-19 global pandemic. The charity sector was decimated, finding itself without regular grants and donations from dependable organizations for the first time in decades. Thankfully, however, Arizona charities had an ace in the hole – The Thunderbirds.
As pillars of the Arizona philanthropic community, The Thunderbirds – much like the mythical bird for which their home city is named – rose from the ashes of anxiety to provide much-needed aid to hundreds of local charities and nonprofits. Within days after the CDC officially designated COVID-19 as a global pandemic in March, The Thunderbirds stepped up with an emergency $1 million donation local charitable groups including Boys and Girls Clubs of the Valley, St. Mary’s Food Bank and St. Vincent de Paul.
“Thanks to the tremendous community support every year of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, The Thunderbirds are in a unique position to provide immediate support,” said Chance Cozby, executive director of The Thunderbirds. “We are in unprecedented times. We felt, as an organization, it was imperative to act quickly and get much-needed funds to help those in dire need as soon as possible.”
Months later in August after a second wave of positive COVID-19 cases gripped the nation, The Thunderbirds announced an additional donation of $3.8 million to 43 Valley charities as part of their Spring funding cycle.
“We understand the importance these charities serve and that was never more evident than this spring when we had to band together to battle this pandemic,” said Tim Woods, Thunderbirds Big Chief. “To see what is happening in our community and how we as an organization are able to help so many is a very proud moment.”
After an influx of monetary support, The Thunderbirds took advantage of virtual meeting platforms like Zoom to launch their “In the Community Conversations” and reached out to dozens of charity partners to learn more about specific needs and to rally the community around common causes. In total, The Thunderbirds conducted 30 separate interviews with Arizona charity leaders and found ways to ease the burden of overwhelmed organizations.
Some organizations like Teen Lifeline who provides support to young people experiencing depression needed sanitation equipment. Ronald McDonald House which provides housing to families whose children are receiving life-saving treatment at world-renowned pediatric centers needed meal donations more than anything else. Others needed additional volunteers, cash donations and clothing to name a few.
“What we found was every organization we spoke to had unique needs,” said 2021 tournament chairman Scott Jenkins. “Cash donations never hurt, but we realized our group could help with more than just providing funds. Writing checks can help from a distance, certainly, but real community support comes from rolling up your sleeves and getting to work.”
Get to work they did. As many Arizona schools prepared to open their doors to students for the first time in months, The Thunderbirds helped ensure every young learner had the tools they needed to succeed by providing on-site support to Arizona Helping Hands. They prepared first-aid kits, filled backpacks full of school supplies and even built bicycles.
“Thunderbirds Charities is very proud of our 10-year partnership with Arizona Helping Hands,” said Ed Grant of The Thunderbirds. “Especially during this pandemic where so many children who are used to getting service – either from their church or their school – are not receiving them right now. But Arizona Helping Hands continued to provide that. It’s very meaningful and it’s very important to us.”
Realizing the importance of exercise and playing safely, The Thunderbirds went to Special Olympics Arizona’s headquarters to help prepare 140 “Return to Play” bags full of personal protection equipment like thermometers, masks, gloves and hand sanitizer to assist SOAZ programs start planning to resume activities. And To celebrate Rebuilding Together Valley of the Sun’s 30th anniversary and as part of their commitment to local non-profit organizations, The Thunderbirds helped Rebuilding Together manufacture and install a wheelchair ramp at the home of a local woman with mobility challenges who had a hard time getting up and down her stairs.
Tyler Kent of The Thunderbirds was on hand to aid in the installation and also shed light on what these projects and the work of the organization at large mean to him and his fellow Thunderbirds.
“With the pandemic, charities need more help than ever,” said Kent. “The Thunderbirds have supported our charity partners financially, but what’s more meaningful today is working alongside my fellow thunderbirds and our charity partners in the community to bring joy and happiness to people in need.”
To lend a hand during the holidays more than 50 Thunderbirds and a number of Waste Management officials visited St. Mary’s Food Bank and United Food Bank before Thanksgiving and Christmas to assist with emergency food preparation. Over the course of two hours, The Thunderbirds and Waste Management officials packed more than 3,000 emergency food boxes and filled 864 backpacks with food for children who do not have access to proper nutrition outside of school – which has been directly impacted by COVID precautions. St. Mary’s Food Bank estimates this 2-hour food pack from The Thunderbirds and Waste Management resulted in helping nearly 2,400 Arizonans.
“These vital organizations do an amazing job helping hungry people in our community regardless of the circumstances,” said Thunderbirds Big Chief Chance Cozby. “Obviously, the current health crisis has impacted their ability to serve the community in the same ways they have in the past, but through volunteer support and the backing of the community at large, we know we can come together and provide aid and assistance to these as much as we can.”
It goes to show what can be done when a community comes together. And while we’re not out of the woods just yet, knowing the community support of the Waste Management Phoenix Open and the host Thunderbirds can and does lead to extraordinary charitable giving is a sight for sore eyes as we inch towards getting back to normal.
Junior Golf Assoc. of AZ
The Junior Golf Association of Arizona is a non-profit organization that promotes junior golf throughout the state of Arizona by providing young individuals the opportunity to play in affordable events. JGAA programs include LPGA-USGA Girls Golf as well as Boys Golf Club.
JGAA tournament membership is open to all boys and girls, ages 8 through their 19th birthday or the day they enter college. It is also required that they understand the JGAA policies and procedures, attend a Rules of Golf clinic, complete the required rules exam and pay the annual membership fee.
Participants in JGAA golf tournaments are divided by age and gender, and play from various course yardages. JGAA tournaments are year-round one- and two-day events conducted primarily during the summer months. Juniors participating in tournament play must be tournament ready. Individuals new to tournament play may choose to participate in LPGA-USGA Girls Golf of Phoenix or the JGAA Boys Golf Club.
LPGA-USGA Girls Golf is a developmental golf program designed for girls ages 5 through 18. It was formed specifically to create a network for girls to learn to play golf, build friendships and compete in a nonthreatening environment. The program meets year-round, with weekly events in the summer and monthly events during the school year. Events include clinics and tournaments, family events, glow-ball golf, team better ball and stroke- play events. Girls enter the program at one of seven skill levels ranging from 3-hole beginning play with a caddy to 18-hole competitions. For information on LPGA-USGA Girls Golf of Phoenix go online to www.girlsgolfofphoenix.org.
The JGAA Boys Golf Club is a developmental junior golf program designed for boys ages 5 through 14. The program is designed to encourage participants to have fun, learn basic fundamentals of the game and provide an opportunity to advance and grow by playing from appropriate yardages for each skill level. The Boys Golf Club has numerous events throughout the year at various courses in the metro Phoenix area. It offers a variety of different golf formats ranging from individual stroke play to team better ball. Each Boys Golf Club event consists of five participation levels, with each level playing 3, 6, 9 or 18 holes from appropriate yardages. Although the Boys Golf Club is primarily a program to help kids have fun and learn the game, each event will have a competition element in which prizes will be awarded. Annual membership fees and tournament entry fees are minimal.
For information on the Boys Golf Club visit www.boysgolfclub.org. For more information on the JGAA, go to www.jgaa.org or call 602.944.6168.
The First Tee of Phoenix
For a moment, imagine the ultimate classroom – lush fairways, greenside bunkers and inspiring teachers, or in their case coaches…for participants of The First Tee of Phoenix, this is their oasis of knowledge.
The First Tee was created on a national level in 1997 by golf’s founders – the USGA, PGA Tour, PGA of America and LPGA – to make golf accessible to young people of all backgrounds. In 2003 The First Tee of Phoenix was implemented by the Thunderbirds and the Waste Management Phoenix Open with that same mission and goal, specifically for Maricopa County.
Today, this not-for-profit organization has evolved into a powerful youth development program that teaches kids life-enhancing values through the game of golf. Honesty, responsibility, courtesy and respect are just a few of the nine core values that are seamlessly incorporated into lessons through The First Tee Life Skills Experience.
Here in the Valley, The First Tee of Phoenix is one of the most active chapters in the nation, with five full-time programming facilities. They include: South Mountain Facility, a 9-hole, Fazio- designed short course that is owned and operated by The First Tee of Phoenix; Desert Mirage Golf Course in Glendale; Papago Golf Course in central Phoenix; Longbow Golf Club in Mesa; and, Falcon Dunes Golf Course, which is supported by Luke Air Force Base and serves as a military affiliate program.
The organization also has more than 140 schools in five school districts involved in its National Schools Program. Through NSP, physical education teachers are trained to conduct golf and life skills programming in schools. Additionally, The First Tee of Phoenix partners with groups like Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCA, Boys Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of America and many others, through special outreach programs that impact more than 70,000 young people, ages 4 through 17, each year. Together these youngsters are discovering how the skills for success on the golf course can help them flourish in life and help them become better sons, daughters, students and people – reinforcing what they learn at home, or in some cases don’t.
At the helm of The First Tee of Phoenix is Executive Director Hugh Smith, Jr. With a support staff of highly trained youth development coaches and golf enthusiasts, and with the support of volunteers and allied organizations like the AGA, AWGA, JGAA and SWSPGA, the organization is having a positive impact on the game while enjoying one of the highest retention rates in the nation at 84 percent.
There is no greater reward than watching youth of limited economic opportunity realize that other people want to open up a whole new world to them. If you would like to get involved with The First Tee of Phoenix, there are many ways you can do so.
Volunteer. Opportunity abounds to volunteer with The First Tee of Phoenix. Volunteer during regular programming or as a scorekeeper/ official at monthly golf tournaments. You can also chaperone monthly non-golf related activities like trips to the Arizona Science Museum, ice skating, bowling, on a camp out, to a Phoenix Suns or Arizona Diamondbacks game, or help out at St. Mary’s Food Bank or the Susan G. Komen race.
Donate golf equipment. Donate used or new equipment like shoes, balls, clubs, bags, clothes and more.
Donate money. Like any non-profit, a monetary donation to The First Tee of Phoenix scholarship fund is always appreciated.
For more information on The First Tee of Phoenix, visit www.thefirstteephoenix.org or call 602.305.7655. The First Tee…impacting our future and the future of the game…today.
AGA membership: What it means to you
Your Handicap Club membership with the Arizona Golf Association includes more than just a handicap. Here’s a breakdown of the benefits you and your club receive.
Having a USGA Handicap Index through the AGA means accessibility to post scores and retrieve information from the course or at home via the Internet.
Through a partnership with the AWGA to provide computers and label printers to all golf courses in Arizona with active member clubs, you can post scores on site after your round, whether you’re at your home course or playing a friend’s course for the day. You can also print a current Handicap label wherever you play.
An AGA membership also gives you the ability to post scores from courses across the country through our affiliation with the International Golf Network. Fifty associations are members of the IGN, which makes posting scores easy if you travel or spend part of the year in another state.
Don’t want to take time at the course to post your score? That’s OK. You can also post scores to any course in the country just by logging onto the AGA Web site, azgolf.org.
You can verify your Handicap through azgolf.org, as well as see a complete score history and perform peer reviews. If your e-mail is on file with us, you’ll receive your updated Handicap electronically twice each month. You can update your e-mail address when logged in online or by calling us at (602) 944-3035.
Whether you like to read about golf in print or online, your AGA membership has you covered.We offer an array of communication vehicles to serve your needs.
The most widely used is our Web site, azgolf.org, which receives more than 75,000 visitors each month. In addition to logging in to post a score or review your Handicap, you can use the site to book a tee time, sign up for an upcoming event, research a new course or learn more about an array of golf topics.
Four times per year we mail all members Arizona The State of Golf, a lifestyle publication produced just for AGA members. In it you’ll find information on great places to play in Arizona, equipment, travel destinations, profiles of wellknown people in the golf community, rules/handicapping and AGA news. Not receiving your magazine? Log onto azgolf.org or call (602) 944-3035 to be sure we have your correct address on file.
Many of our members prefer to receive updates via e-mail, so we’ve developed electronic communications, like our monthly e-newsletter, which includes AGA news and special member-only offers.
TOURNAMENTS AND EVENTS
Whether you’re a scratch golfer or not, if you like testing your skill against other avid golfers, AGA tournaments are one member benefit you don’t want to pass up. We hold about 70 tournaments each year, some championships played at scratch and others at various handicap levels, so you’re sure to find one that fits your level of ability.
Our annual Father/Son Tournament offers you family bonding time with your dad or son, whether he’s 7 or 77 years old. You can also participate in one or all of our member days, which are held at clubs across the state. They are a great way to enjoy a fun game of golf and lunch with friends at a club you might not otherwise play.
Your club also benefits from AGA membership. Taking advantage of these benefits allows your club to offer you an unparalleled experience on and off the course.
Your USGA Handicap Index is dependent on accurate course and slope ratings. The AGA is licensed by the USGA to rate golf courses in Arizona, a service that is offered free to all AGA member clubs. Additionally, the AGA provides course measuring services using state-of-the-art GPS equipment.
Member clubs have access to free software tools. Our tournament software helps manage events by aiding in setting up teams and flights, creating pairings, printing scorecards, generating cart signs, scoring, calculating skins and producing final reports. Our club management software provides your club with a Web site, which includes features that support communication between a club and its members. It serves as a platform where club members can renew their club membership, view detailed tournament information, sign up for events, communicate with other members through a club directory and bulletin board, and more.
The AGA also offers member clubs onsite seminars on everything golf, such as handicapping, the Rules of Golf, marking a golf course and how to use tournament software to set up and manage club tournaments.
As technology evolves, more and more people are looking online to keep up with what’s happening in the world. Arizona Golf Association members are no different, so we’ve made keeping up with the AGA as easy as clicking your mouse.
Blogs are a great way to learn about topics that interest you. The AGA produces an array of golf-related blogs. From the azgolf.org homepage, you’ll find them under the heading “AGA Blog” located a little ways down the page on the right. Use the scrollbar to see what’s new with each one. We blog about topics like rules, handicapping, greens and general topics. You’ll even find a blog by former Arizona Republic and East Valley Tribune golf writer Bill Huffman. We invite you to read our blogs, comment on what you read and share them with friends.
Facebook is another widely popular online communication tool. The AGA launched a Facebook fan page which you’ll find at facebook.com/ArizonaGolfAssociation. Stay up-to-date on our Facebook activity by clicking on the “Like” button and joining our more than 380 fans. What are we posting? Announcements about upcoming events, links to AGA contests and promotions, photos from a recent AGA events and more. We welcome your comments too! One AGA Facebook fan posted, “AGA on FB? I think it’s ‘one small step for AGA…a giant step for its members’! Please keep up the great job!” Our Facebook fan page is an excellent way for you to stay connected with us, so make it a regular stop when you’re online. Just remember to call us with questions specific to your membership or to which you need a quick response.
A third way to stay in the loop with AGA activities is through Twitter. If you’re not familiar with Twitter, it’s a real-time information site that allows users to send short bursts of information called tweets (140 characters maximum) to their followers (the people who subscribe to their tweets). You’ll find us at twitter.com/accessazgolf. Click “Follow” to receive our tweets on your Twitter homepage. While some of our tweets are similar to our Facebook posts, you’ll also find unique ones, so make sure you join us on both social media sites. During the US Open, Ed Gowan tweeted throughout each day of the event as a walking rules official. You just never know what we’ll tweet next.
If you are curious about Facebook or Twitter, but have never used them before, use these links to create an account: Facebook signup, Twitter signup. If you have questions about either, both sites have extensive help sections that are sure to answer any question you might have.