Jock Holliman

Written by Lauren Loftus Category: Spotlight Issue: January 2018
Group Free

Phoenix Open Shhhhaman

Photography by Louis Hernandez
Photography by Louis Hernandez

What’s the opposite of the life of the party? Zombie of the soirée? Fiesta killer? Whatever the diss, Jock Holliman has likely been accused of being one in his 20-plus years policing the notorious 16th hole at the Waste Management Phoenix Open (January 29-February 4, 2018, at TPC Scottsdale). But never mind his “Quiet” sign and miked “Please show your courtesy” announcements from the grassy tee – the humble, white-haired Holliman takes his volunteer gig with a serious grain of salt. “After [players] hit, we’re happy for the crowd to go nuts. They can go crazy and yell and scream, and we encourage that,” the 64-year-old venture capitalist and avid golf fan says. A lifetime member of The Thunderbirds – a faction of the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce focused on promoting the Valley of the Sun through sports – Holliman says he only plans to marshal for two more years, after which he’ll hang up his quiet sign and, finally, get to whoop and cheer along with the rest of the crowd.

How did the 16th become known as “The Party Hole”?
The hole used to be famous for Friday afternoons when the [Arizona State University] students would come out and party. Phil Mickelson was at ASU in the early ‘90s, and a huge following came with him. They would sit on the hillside surrounding the 16th tee and wait for Phil to come through and go crazy. I would say Phil was the original party, he was the reason for the party… In 1997, a young professional named Tiger Woods came to our tournament… I was on the 16th tee with Tiger when he hit the hole- in-one. That was the stick of dynamite that ignited the people.

How do you foster the fun party environment while maintaining decorum for the pros?
Over the years I’ve studied all of the players’ addresses. Some approach the ball quickly, some take their practice swings behind the ball. Every player’s address is different, but there’s a single instant where they lock down on their concentration and so I have to call quiet before that or I interrupt them, but if I call quiet too early, the crowd starts to buzz again. It’s a little tricky, but we do a good job.

Do you have a favorite story from your years marshaling?
There’s a group of former ASU students from Minnesota, a group of about 15 guys who come every year and sit in the corner of the close-end bleacher section, and these guys know more about each player than they should. [They’re hecklers] in a very positive way. We have recruited them to also be part of the marshaling system – I hand them all quiet signs... Their chants are very funny, but when I hold up the quiet sign, they hold up the quiet signs, and they help me police that bleacher. It’s a very nice partnership. Make the problem the solution.

What about the players? Is there any pushback on the debauchery?
The players, almost to a man, are now really embracing it. It used to be, I think, intimidating – not to say that walking through the tunnel and emerging to 22,000 screaming people doesn’t get you going – but I think most of the pros are anxious, they’re fired up, and there are certain pros who are real showmen and they get into it. Rickie [Fowler] and Bubba [Watson] and Phil have been great. Ian Poulter is a showman, he’s a lot of fun. Ninety-nine-percent of the pros embrace it.

As a businessman, why do you think golf and business are such a natural pair?
The biggest benefit of golf [in regard to] business is it reveals character. You’ll know more about how the way somebody’s going to run a company in four hours on the golf course than you will working with them for two years. Their demeanor on the golf course absolutely reveals who the person is. Are they honest? Do they cut corners? Are they competitive? Are they secure, confident? Or insecure? ... It’s probably the best profiling assessment tool that you can use.