'The Green Gopher' prepares to steal the show at the TPC

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The Green Gopher! (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The Green Gopher! (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
18th hole at TPC: Source: WMPhoenixOpen.com 18th hole at TPC: Source: WMPhoenixOpen.com
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(3TV/CBS 5) -

You might think it's Aaron Baddeley or Phil Mickelson stealing the show out at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. But the spotlight, at least on hole 18, usually goes to a chubby little gopher, who's a  bit of an MVP at TPC Scottsdale. 

Near the Greenskeeper area, the crowd favorite each year is not the guy on the golf course, but the guy on the water. And this year, he is new and improved. This gopher-with-a-mission is in charge of patrolling and protecting the "Greenest Show on Grass." 

Simply called "The Green Gopher," this little mascot has a pretty big job to do.

"We needed a way to get the birds to not roost on the sign," Milo Bonnin, The Green Gopher's handler, explained. "We had many ideas over the years."

[MORE: Field Trip Friday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open]

But it was the idea of a boat-driving gopher that took flight to keep the birds at bay, in the most humane way. 

"There's certainly a lot of birds that fly around," Waste Management spokeswoman Janette Micelli said. "It's an Audubon site, and we're happy to have them here."

But Waste Management is protective of its floating logo on hole 18. The iconic sign, which weighs upwards of 8 tons and takes days to construct, is made of 140,000 recycled and reused golf balls. And that means no birds allowed.   

"We just don't want them to hang out on our sign structure too long, especially during the course of tournament coverage," Micelli.

Once The Green Gopher hits the water, the birds do keep their distance.

The fans on the other hand, well, they come flocking.

"As soon as the gopher gets in the water, the fans who see him get excited," Bonnin said. He's the only one allowed on The Green Gopher's remote control and he takes this business of fun pretty seriously. 

"I come out here every day and try to practice with him and make sure that I know how to steer him through the sign," Bonnin explained. "He's got some tricky maneuvers that he likes to do."

Making sure he doesn't tip over in the water is key.

"I came close today, but when the wind starts blowing I bring him in," Bonnin said.

This year, The Green Gopher will cruise around the lake on 18 with a whole new look. He's put on a few pounds; he has a bigger, better boat, and will be much more animated.

"His arms move up and down, back and forth, and his head moves," Bonnin said. He can even wave at the crowd -- all done by remote control.

You also can expect to see The Green Gopher with a whole new outfit and a different theme each day in honor of the Olympics, the Pro-Am and much more.   

Just be ready to be surprised. And be ready with your camera phone.

"If you see him out on the course, take a picture of him," urges Micelli. "Put him on social media, do #GreenestShow; we'd love to see what you think of our little furry fellow of fun." 

Fans will be allowed to use cell phones to take photos and videos all week, even during the competition. That's new this year and some restrictions apply so be sure to check out the PGA Tour spectator mobile device policy at www.pgatour.com.

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Copyright 2018 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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