Grand Slam coming back

It’s going to be a ‘Grand’ ole time in Po’ipu once again, at least for one more year.

After much speculation of a possible move elsewhere, the PGA Grand Slam of Golf will return to the Poipu Bay Golf Course for another year, from Nov. 20-22, the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) announced yesterday.

“We look forward to returning to the Poipu Bay Golf Course and the Grand Hyatt (Kauai) Resort & Spa with the PGA Grand Slam of Golf,” said Julius Mason, PGA senior director of communications and media relations.

“Kaua’i is a great destination for this unique event that features four major-championships winners,” Mason said yesterday during a telephone interview.

The news first broke on The Garden Island’s Web site (www.kauaiworld.com) early yesterday morning.

In past years, PGA officials announced their intentions to return the Grand Slam to Po’ipu at a banquet dinner at the end of the actual event.

However, after receiving strong offers from those at other venues, PGA leaders decided to take a look at other possibilities for the year-by-year contractual event.

“It’s the same for all of our other (PGA) events. We get offers from other places as well,” Mason said.

According to PGA officials, officials from the Caribbean, Las Vegas, and the southeastern part of the United States were all heavily interested in hosting the Slam.

The PGA Grand Slam of Golf returns for its 13th straight year to the Poipu Bay Golf Course, and 14th overall stint on Kaua’i. The 1991 Slam was played at the Kauai Lagoons Resort’s Kiele Course, designed by Jack Nicklaus.

“We are delighted to welcome the PGA Grand Slam back to Poipu Bay for another year,” says Myles Shibata, chief operating officer for Kawailoa Development, owner of Poipu Bay Golf Course and the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa.

“It’s a wonderful event, and we look forward to hosting it for the 13th consecutive year at Po’ipu.”

According to Shibata, PGA officials signed on with the Poipu Bay Golf Course and the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa for a year, plus an option for another stint in 2007.

The madefor-TV spectacle, which featured a marquee field of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Michael Campbell, and Vijay Singh last year, experienced double-digit growth in key demographics for TNT’s 15th consecutive year of televising the invitationonly tournament.

It is considered golf’s most difficult tournament to qualify for, because the four slots are reserved for winners of the year’s major tournaments: British Open, U.S. Open, Masters and PGA Championship.

Campbell, who made his first trip to Hawai’i in ’05, enjoyed the people, and felt at home in Po’ipu.

“I think it’s nice to come here and be very welcomed by the local people. Obviously, the Polynesian connection between the Maori and the Hawaiians, it’s like playing at home, really. It makes you want to come back for more,” Campbell said after last year’s final round.

It will certainly be music to Tiger Woods’ ears to hear that the Grand Slam will be returning to the course he’s dominated, with six trophies to his credit in seven appearances at the Poipu Bay Golf Course.

“I think it’s a wonderful place. I mean, everyone loves to come to Hawai’i,” Woods said after claiming gold in November of 2005.

“I think it’s exciting for the fans. I’ve always enjoyed playing Po’ipu,” Woods continued.

“I don’t see any reason why they should move (the event) because it is such a wonderful place,” Woods said after winning his sixth Grand Slam of Golf title in 2005, posting a seven-stroke victory over reigning PGA Champion Phil Mickelson, U.S. Open Champion Michael Campbell and three-time major champion Vijay Singh.

The 36 hole event is the season-ending showcase featuring the winners of the season’s four majors, or alternates based on how they placed in the majors if one person wins more than one major event or for whatever reason one of the qualifiers chooses to bypass Kaua’i and Po’ipu.

This year’s purse will increase from $1 million to $1.25 million with the winner receiving $500,000, second-place $300,000, third-place $250,000, and fourth-place $200,000.

Should a player win more than one major championship this season, the foursome will be completed through a Major Champions Points List composed of past major champions who compete in this year’s majors.

Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kaua’i Visitors Bureau, received a telephone call early yesterday morning with the good news, and feels the announcement puts residents in good shape to play hosts to the best golfers in the world next year as well.

“Yes, this is good news,” said Kanoho, indicating there will be some late nights at KVB spent re-inserting information about the tournament returning to the island after taking such references out of printed and online Kaua’i promotional materials after PGA officials’ indecision about returning.

“We’ve taken it out of everything,” she said.

“We’re extremely thrilled to have this event back on island,” said Kanoho, indicating the “hard efforts” of Shibata in negotiating with PGA officials paid off.

“Congratulations to Myles for securing successful negotiations.”

Now, it’s “up to all of us to make it successful. We’re very, very happy to have them announce for 2006,” said Kanoho, adding that she is “hopeful” about a 2007 PGA Grand Slam of Golf in Po’ipu as well.

See more coverage on the announcement on the sports pages, beginning on B1.

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