Grand Theft: Aloha means goodbye for PGA

In early December, the Professional Golfers Association announced that The PGA Grand Slam of Golf tournament would be moving to the Mid Ocean Club in Bermuda after 13 consecutive years on Kaua‘i.

Po‘ipu Bay Golf Course had been the home of the event, which brings together the winners of the year’s four major championships, since 1993.

Though there had been some indication that the PGA was looking to move the event and The Garden Island reported back in October that Bermuda’s tourism minister had boasted that a move to the Atlantic island nation was “little more than a formality,” the official word nevertheless came as a blow local businesses and golf fans across the island.

Locals weren’t the only ones who voiced disappointment with the move.

Tiger Woods, who has dominated the Grand Slam for the better part of a decade, said a move would be “a shame” after his 2006 win.

Though originally designed to move from course to course each year, the Grand Slam had become an annual autumn event on the island, bringing in millions of dollars and giving Kaua‘i unparalleled global exposure.

While leaves and temperatures were falling on the Mainland this past November, 88 million U.S. homes tuned in to watch shots of sunny Po‘ipu for two straight nights.

The event was also broadcast internationally to more than 100 countries during a special prime-time telecast.

Tourism officials have acknowledged that kind of marketing muscle won’t easily be replaced.

But the loss of the island’s sole major sporting event goes beyond dollars and cents.

While many have focused on the financial loss to the island — Kaua‘i earned more than $2.4 million in Grand Slam visitor spending last year — the collateral damage that has yet to be discussed is the impact on the island’s youth.

The Grand Slam was one of the few opportunities for Kaua‘i’s kids to experience a professional sporting event and see the world’s most elite athletes in their own neighborhood.

As the event celebrates its 25th anniversary next year in Bermuda, local families will be left to watch each hole unfold from the couch rather than from the fairway under a crisp Kaua‘i sky.

Looking forward, there’s no reason Kaua‘i can’t lure another major sporting event to the island, or even try and bring The Grand Slam back again in the future. Michael Story, sports manager with the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, said that his office is being proactive in pursuing another event. HTA officials will be sitting face-to-face with PGA officials this week when they arrive in Maui for The Mercedes-Benz Championship, and talks are scheduled for early 2007 with the Kaua‘i Visitor’s Bureau, local officials and others interested in bringing a major sporting event to island.

“Whether it’s interest in golf, football, maybe baseball in the future, we want to get the island’s youth involved,” said Story. “The kids really need to be a part of it, and we’re cognizant of that in our decisions.”

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