Living the Dream: Michael Hopper, PGA, Looks to Cash In at WM Phoenix Open

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Living the Dream: Michael Hopper PGA, Looks to Cash in at WM Phoenix Open

By Ryan Adams, PGA
Published on

It’s not every day you play in a tournament with a $20 million purse. Or in front of 900,000.
Michael Hopper is the PGA Head Professional of Lookout Mountain Golf Club, Phoenix. He tees off at 3:35 p.m. PT for the 2023 WM Phoenix Open. With 23 of the 24 top players in the world and the first “designated event” of the PGA Tour’s season, this trip around TPC Scottsdale will feel a little different for Hopper than in the past.
“I played in 2015 when the Super Bowl and Tiger were last here, and it’s hard to imagine this event getting much bigger, but it’s happened,” says Hopper. “Any way you draw it up, being a part of this event is cool. I’ve always wanted to play professionally and having that chance in this tournament, with a $20 million purse, is just insane.”
Hopper is in the field at the 2023 WM Phoenix Open for the same reason he was in 2015 and ‘19: winning the Southwest PGA Section Championship. The winner gets an exemption in the event every year, and after some confirming with the PGA Tour from the Southwest PGA Section and PGA of America, the spot would stand — Hopper was in.

Hey @WMPhoenixOpenHeres your first official competitor for 2023. Congratulations @tigerhopperCongratulations on winning the 65th Southwest PGA Championship, held at @Sewailo. His 54-hole total was 202 (-14), which was 7 strokes more than the runner-up Derek Shelburne. @acaseofthegolf1 @lookoutmtngc

— Southwest PGA (@SWSectionPGA) September 14, 2022

MicHaving a little experience with the WM Phoenix Open environment certainly plays in Hopper’s favor, too.

Michael Hopper practices before the 2023 WM Phoenix Open tournament rounds.
“Once you get to 16-17-18, it’s like you’re in a football stadium,” says Hopper. “But you’ve played most of your round already and you’re used to the people being around, so it’s not as insane as people might think. The shot on 16 is usually just a 9-iron or pitching wedge, too — now if it was a 4-iron it’d probably be a little more terrifying!”
Hopper said that his typical game is conservative: hitting it straight and making putts. It’s the distance and aggressiveness of tour players that differs, and he’s started the Stack System — co-founded by fellow PGA Member Marty Jerstson and biomechanist Dr. Sasho MacKenzie — to add some distance.
“Overall I feel like I hit it as good as most the guys on tour, but gaining some speed will help a lot,” says Hopper. “The day job doesn’t allow me a lot of time to play and practice but I aimed for 30 minutes to an hour a day leading up to this tournament. That’s the life of PGA Professional — you get it in when you can.”
Hopper has his eyes on the cut, and this week will be unique. The Thunderbirds — the charity organization running the WM Phoenix Open — have given 100 tickets for Hopper to hand out. He’ll have his wife Angelque and two kids, Aiden and Cadance, in attendance to support him, plus friends coming in from around the country.

Michael Hopper, PGA signs autographs for a fan at 2023 WM Phoenix Open.
“We thought initially they would rescind my exemption,” says Hopper. “Instead, it’s all worked out.”
Follow Michael Hopper, PGA and more leaderboard action at the WM Phoenix Open Here.

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