Lemonade from Lemons: A Positive Outcome from an Unfortunate Event

The story of the 2024 WM Phoenix Open has been widely written about and discussed, even to the point of being an international story. The notorious “golf party”, easily the most eventful PGA tour event of the year, got entirely out of control this year with quite a few attendees getting out of control with an abnormally high number of arrests and demands for police intervention (read our coverage here).

While this year’s event was unquestionably a black eye on the event, sometimes even amongst the most negative of circumstances a silver lining emerges. That was just the case this year, as the Thunderbirds, the charity group who promotes the event, announced a record year of fundraising for the event to the tune of an astonishing $17 million.

The event has turned into a charitable juggernaut; over the last 15 years, the Thunderbirds have raised a staggering $142 million for charities through the Open. As for tangible positive outcomes from these funds, for example, funds donated directly led to the opening of a pediatric burn center. There is no doubt that regardless of the negatives that made headlines this year, the Open does a lot of good for the area. 

Thankfully, all involved realize the issues with this year’s event and seem dedicated to improvement, although the solutions may come with issues themselves. The tournament intends to increase police presence for next year’s event, although law enforcement resources were already stretched thin across the Valley as a result of the rowdiness at the Open. While this approach is certain to help quell bad behavior, there may be a cost involved that isn’t purely financial. 

This leaves us all with quite the quandary; the worst year of the Open for behavior led to the best year for charitable giving, and as such, the best year for positive impact. With the bad comes the good. And so does a calmer, less rowdy tournament then lead to less money spent at the event, and as such less money raised for charity? Does the bad activity on the grounds then lead over to a more positive outcome outside the grounds? While impossible to directly measure, perhaps it is something that needs to be considered.

We obviously don’t wish for the tournament to be considered a black eye in the game of golf going forward, nor do we wish to be the subject of international headlines (in an unequivocally bad way). After all, Arizona has a way of being known for the wrong reasons. But that said, even if the issues with this year’s Open aren’t fixed in a truly material way, we can at least take comfort in knowing that it comes with the benefit of significant societal improvement outside of the course.