Reavie goes from a kid holding a sign to a pro trying to win in Phoenix

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Chez Reavie and his parents had a deal.

At the end of elementary school, throughout middle school and into his early years of high school, Reavie had to get good grades and then keep them up throughout the first half of the school year so he could miss school the Thursday and Friday of Phoenix Open week. But it wasn’t so he could just go to the tournament.

Reavie had a job to do.

The first time that Reavie attended the Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale, right around the time he was in the fifth grade, he saw kids who looked to be his age carrying the signboards. His mom reached out to the Thunderbirds, the charitable organization that runs the Phoenix Open locally, and asked how their son could do that, too.

He was on the course the next year and continued being a standard-bearer until his sophomore year of high school.

“For me, it was a dream come true, just walking inside the ropes and just seeing how nice the fairways were, the greens were, and just kind of getting that perspective as a golfer as a kid was mind-blowing,” Reavie said.

In the past 27 years, Reavie has gone from standard-bearer to fan favorite. And during that time, the tournament has come to mean more to him than any other stop on tour and has helped shape who he is as a PGA Tour golfer.

“It gave me motivation,” Reavie said. “It’s the ultimate. It’s almost like being a kid playing basketball and being able to go in and sit in the huddle for the Phoenix Suns and see how they do things and see the great players, how they play and just how they played during competition.

“That’s what’s so unique about golf, is that it was almost like I was in the middle of everything. So I got to see how they played and I got to see how they treated people. I got to see how they handled the ups and downs and just mainly got to just see professional golfers, people I watched on TV and looked up to.”

Reavie grew up playing on a public course — Dobson Ranch — in Mesa, Arizona, a suburb east of Phoenix, and about a half-hour drive from TPC Scottsdale. There, he’d spend hours on the putting green throughout his childhood, under the lights, working on his short game, envisioning each putt as the one to win the Masters, the U.S. Open — and the Phoenix Open.

With each passing year, the tournament became more important and special to Reavie. When he began holding the signboard, he was one of the few kids doing it, and would often carry for two groups, walking 36 holes each of the four days of the tournament.

That first year was nerve-wracking for a young Reavie.

“I was obviously really nervous, just trying to make sure I didn’t get in the way,” he said. “And then just not knowing how they would treat me, being a kid carrying the signboard out there. If I’m in the way, are they gonna yell at me or are they gonna even acknowledge if I’m even there? I don’t remember really having any bad experiences.”

The pros noticed the young boy. They’d talk with him on occasion and almost always ask if he played golf.

But one player stood out among everyone else.

The first time Reavie carried the standard for Payne Stewart’s group, Stewart walked over to Reavie on the first tee and introduced himself. Reavie was so nervous he couldn’t talk. Reavie still recalls Stewart’s introduction: “He’s like, ‘Hey, we’re gonna have a great day today, let’s go have fun, make sure you drink enough water.'”

Reavie still remembers how Stewart laughed and joked regardless of how good or bad his shots were.

“He treated me like I was his son,” Reavie said. “He was just so nice to me and he was very iconic at the time and that’s just something that really sinks in with me.

“He just seemed like a guy who treated people the way he wanted to be treated and it didn’t change whether he was winning or losing or how many tournaments he had won. He was who he was.”

That stuck with Reavie.

He’d watch his groups closely throughout the years, picking up tendencies and tips, but it was the non-golf lessons he took away from his time as a standard-bearer that shaped who he is as a professional.

He’d see guys throw and slam their clubs after bad shots and then watch other guys who didn’t show any emotion.

“As a kid, it kind of stands out,” he said. “You’re kind of like, ‘Wow, it doesn’t look good. It’s not a good look.’ So, it definitely helped me even though they were never mean to me. You just see them get mad and then you’d see guys who weren’t affected and kind of how that looked, and it just kind of helped me try and be the guy that I am today.”

Now, Reavie makes sure to introduce himself to every standard-bearer with his group on the first tee. And then he tries to help them as much as he can. If it’s windy and they’re struggling with the sign, he’ll help them, or if they don’t know where to stand, he’ll show them the right areas.

The first time Reavie played TPC Scottsdale, he was humbled. It was around his freshman year of high school and even though he remembers the whole experience as being “awesome,” the course “seemed a lot harder to me,” especially some chips and definitely the greens.

It was certainly harder than the pros made it look.

Golf was always Reavie’s sport of choice. He grew up playing everything but football. Golf kept tugging. He said he won some national junior tournaments and was ranked, which led to a chance to play at Arizona State. He wasn’t on scholarship as a freshman, when the Sun Devils had players like Paul Casey, Matt Jones and Jin Park. Reavie won the U.S. Amateur Public Links in 2001, went on scholarship the next school year and his career took off.

Playing in the Phoenix Open, however, wasn’t easy for him at first.

“It’s near and dear to my heart,” he said. “It’s like a major for me, which made it tough for me to play the first few years because I’d go out there and I was just trying so hard and trying to do too much and playing too aggressive.

“I’d say the last few years I finally just kind of settled down and said, ‘OK, let’s plot our way around here, let’s be smart and it’s just a golf tournament. You don’t have to try harder. You try hard enough every day.’ And especially when you have all your friends and family out there too, you’re wanting to play well and give them something fun to watch, get excited over.”

When Reavie says the Phoenix Open is like a major for him, he’s not exaggerating.

“It would be just like winning the Masters or winning the U.S. Open for me, in my mind,” he said. “As you’re a kid, it’s like making putts to win the Masters and the U.S. Open and also the Phoenix Open. They were kind of all lumped into that same category.”

In 2018, it almost happened.

Reavie birdied the 17th and 18th hole in the fourth round to force a playoff with Gary Woodland. He was as close to winning the Phoenix Open as he’s ever been. Woodland eventually won in the playoff. As disappointed as Reavie was, he basked in the moment.

“It was just surreal,” he said. “It was so much fun and so exciting. I made a putt on 18 to force the playoff and I could see all my friends and family going nuts and it was so much fun. So much fun.

“It’s probably the most excited I’ve been on a golf course on tour. Even though I lost the playoff, I got done and it was — obviously I was disappointed I didn’t win — but at the same time I just had so much fun doing it to where I just loved every minute of it.”

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