The Thunderbirds Make History With Golf Facility Gift
Arizona Athletics' announcement of its new, state-of-the-art facility for its women's and men's golf programs was historic in a number of ways. The $14.86 million dollar project will give Arizona's elite golf teams an official home at Tucson Country Club. It was a powerful display by generous supporters who made the project a reality. It also marked a historic first for one of those key supporters of the project.
The key project to support Arizona student-athletes is The Thunderbirds' first major philanthropic endeavor outside of Maricopa County, giving $1 million to the project.
"The Thunderbirds supported this project because it is important to ensure that the U of A golf teams maintain their status as elite programs, not only in the Pac-12, but across the country," said Scott Jenkins, 2021-22 Executive Director of The Thunderbirds. "We should all want the best amateur players from across the world to play collegiate golf in Arizona. Arizona's new golf facility will help with the future recruitment of this talent and develop future professional players that go on and return to the WM Phoenix Open."
Synonymous with golf in the state of Arizona and the WM Phoenix Open, The Thunderbirds began as an expansion of the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce's tourism bureau in 1937. The WM Phoenix Open has seen its fair share of Wildcats in action as 11 former UArizona golfers have competed in the event a total of 119 times. The organization has also hosted and supported generations of tournaments from PGA Tour events to American Junior Golf Association tournaments and a plethora of events in between.
"While many are familiar with The Thunderbirds as the hosts of the WM Phoenix Open, an event in which we take great pride in, we are equally passionate about the development of young athletes and our future community leaders through the support of amateur golf," Jenkins continued. "The Thunderbirds have always tried to grow the game of golf throughout Arizona by supporting programs such as the First Tee and American Junior Golf Association and sponsoring collegiate events such as The Thunderbird International Jr., and The Patriot All-American and recently as the co-host of the NCAA National Championships at Grayhawk in Scottsdale. We are very proud of our decades-long history of supporting and growing both professional and amateur golf in Arizona."
By expanding its impact beyond the Phoenix area, The Thunderbirds have also helped grow the game in Southern Arizona with the Wildcats' new golf facility. Another impact of the gift will help create The Thunderbirds Courtyard inside the new building. The open-air common area will be utilized by student-athletes as well as serving as a space for the programs to host private events. It's a Phoenix-Tucson golf connection that matches the University of Arizona's own strong roots in the Phoenix area. It's also another symbolic touchpoint between The Thunderbirds and the project as Bill Clements, the namesake of the facility, was a former member of the organization.
"The Phoenix metropolitan area is a key hub of University of Arizona alumni, and this meshing of Phoenix and Tucson with The Thunderbird's historic generosity strengthens the University of Arizona's and Arizona Athletics' bonds throughout the state," said Arizona Executive Senior Associate AD Erika Barnes. "The Thunderbirds' involvement in this capital project also helps grow the game of golf throughout the state and enhance the student-athlete experience of both of our golf programs."
Another connection of The Thunderbirds' generosity towards Arizona's golf programs will live on with the renaming of an Arizona Men's Golf home tournament that the program has hosted since 1981 as well as other potential naming opportunities with Arizona Women's Golf's events. The Arizona Thunderbirds Intercollegiate will be played at Tucson Country Club in January, which will be the home of the William M. "Bill" Clements Golf Center.
In addition to the key gifts from Ginny L. Clements and The Thunderbirds, the project was also supported by the Peter and Nancy Salter Family Foundation. Other significant donations to the facility were made by former Wildcat golfer Jim Furyk and his wife Tabitha, Humberto and Czarina Lopez, Jim and Vicki Click, Tim and Jane Garigan, Brian and Kris Hogan as well as Thomas and Joanne Quebedeaux and Ken Coit.
It all serves as a fitting reminder of the generations of Arizona and other student-athletes whose experiences will be improved by The Thunderbirds' everlasting philanthropy. The Clements Golf Center at Tucson Country Club will be home of Arizona golfers, and The Arizona Thunderbirds Intercollegiate will host elite college golfers from around the country as a premiere collegiate golf event.