“Greatest Show on Grass” offers hands on experience to FCB students

Posted: Thursday, March 5th 2015 at 3:44 PM

By Sophia Nitti, Student Writer

During the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open (WMPO),* NAU alum Mike Donley (’87 Lodging, Restaurant, and Tourism) offered a very unique internship to three lucky W. A. Franke College of Business (FCB) seniors.

Donley is a member of the Thunderbirds, a non-profit organization that raises money for charities through the WMPO. For the event, he is in charge of the Skybox venue at Hole 16. Understanding that Super Bowl XLIX Week was taking place at the same time, the Thunderbirds counted on a large attendance and knew help would be needed to raise the level of the VIP experience.

Donley reached out to his alma mater for student interns to help provide service to the anticipated high-profile VIPs. He worked with Ron Smith, director of the FCB Career Development Office, to post the internship.

Students Kevin Donley (Mike’s son and FCB senior marketing major with a minor in hotel and restaurant management), Kenzie Estes, and Nick Walker worked the “greatest show on grass” from Wednesday, Jan. 28 to Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015.

The students had the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of the event while helping with various tasks. More than 20,000 people moved through the Skybox, a venue so large it requires a tour guide. Players’ wives; celebrities from sports and entertainment; CEOs of businesses; and the press enjoyed the Skybox experience. Estes had the job of serving as one of the tour guides.

“This area [had] the highest-end skyboxes,” Estes said. “The golf players’ families would come here to watch them tee off so we escorted family members and drove other members around the course on our golf carts.”

According to Estes, golf spectators are not always as calm and collected as they seem on television.

“Unlike other courses where golf etiquette is to remain completely quiet and politely clap, this stadium is loud, rowdy, and ruthless,” Estes said.

“There is so much behind-the-scenes action that spectators don’t realize. It was a fun experience to have full access to this huge event,” Estes concluded.

Kevin Donley and Walker’s duties included shuttling guests back and forth to the parking lot ½ mile away. 

“I’ve volunteered with the Thunderbirds before and they are an incredible charity organization,” Kevin Donley said.

Smith said, “[It] was a great event and experience for our students to intern for four days at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. There were a record number of people who attended despite the wet conditions. We were able to meet a number of NAU alumni and business leaders in the state and enjoy some really great golf. ” 

It is through the dedication of FCB alum like Mike Donley that students are able to partake in unique opportunities that provide hands-on experience outside of class.

Mike Donley hopes to have more interns for the WMPO 2016 event. “They were a big asset this year and made the guest experience all that much better,” he said.

* About the Thunderbirds and WMPO

Thunderbirds Charities is a non-profit organization to distribute monies raised through the Waste Management Phoenix Open golf tournament. “After this tournament they will surpass $100 million in donations to local Phoenix charities,” Mike Donley said.

About Alum Mike Donley

Donley is president of Donley Service Center that provides residential and commercial air conditioning, plumbing, heating, sewer repair, and maintenance management services in the Valley of the Sun.

Categories: flagstaff business news nau business news “greatest show on grass” offers hands on experience to fcb students mike donley thunderbirds waste management phoenix open super bowl xlix kevin donley kenzie estes nick walker ron smith skybox sophia nitti