Gunby: The greatest ‘game’ on grass

Column: Tee It Up

Now that the 2018 Waste Management Phoenix Open is in the record books, I would like to share my observations of the PGA Tour and its players.

The WMPO, or “The Greatest Show on Grass,” is a one-of-a-kind event. The Thunderbirds, the community-based organization that hosts the WMPO, are unbelievable volunteers. The many facets and organization that go into this tournament are huge and beyond comprehension. My hat’s off to them and the thousands of spectators who make the WMPO the most attended golf tournament in the world.

Did you know the PGA Tour raises more money for charities than the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL combined? Add to this the millions of charitable dollars raised annually by local golf facilities, and golf comes out as the most charitable of all sports.

Every year I have the honor to serve as a walking marshal inside the ropes for the Wednesday WMPO Pro-Am, and I bring a group of Special Olympics athletes and coaches to the Tuesday practice round. As a result, I get to know some Tour Players more intimately.

Two years ago, we had a chance meeting at the WMPO practice round with a young tour player, Peter Malnati. Three tour players were walking to the third tee, and we approached them for their autographs. Two of them kept walking. The third was Peter Malnati. He stopped, turned around, came back to us and graciously signed the athletes’ flags and talked to them. We will never forget that day as he won our admiration. Peter remains a huge supporter of our Special Olympics program here in the greater Prescott area.

I remember Gary Player walking up to me at the 17th hole of the 1962 Tucson Open and handing me the golf ball he had just used to score an eagle. Did this influence my choice of profession? Maybe.

A few years back, the PGA produced a series of television commercials with the theme “These Guys Are Good.” Yes, they are. And they are “good guys” as well. Thanks to Frances Ouimet, Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, Byron Nelson and Arnold Palmer, today’s PGA Tour players know that their fans and sponsors along with sportsmanship are paramount. To quote Byron Nelson, “Regardless of where you are or what you are doing, someone is watching you. And I think people with notoriety have more of a responsibility to do right and be a role model because more people are watching them.”

They accept good and bad breaks with integrity. They appreciate the talents of their fellow playing partners as well. They keep their emotions in check and walk off the final green knowing that tomorrow brings a new day that will be filled with expectations, tests and surprises. How we all act on the course and react to the many challenges that golf presents is critical to everyone’s enjoyment.

Go play golf, and as you do, remember someone is watching you. And by your behavior, not shots or score, you can model a Tour Player.

John Gunby Sr. is a columnist for The Daily Courier. Reach him by email at