Grand Slam leaving Kauai for Bermuda
The event pitting golf's major winners has a rich history in Hawaii
The book is closed, for now, on the PGA Grand Slam of Golf's historic run on Kauai.
The tournament has been whisked off to Bermuda for next October, but nothing can take away the great memories the top golfers in the world gave Kauai fans at the Poipu Bay Golf Course the past 13 years.
It was Tiger Woods' personal playground. The world's No. 1 golfer won seven of the eight times he played Poipu.
The PGA of America gave no reason for the move other than that it has always entertained offers from other places and intimating that it was just time to move on to a new site.
Maybe Woods' dominance played a role in the move.
PGA of America media relations director Julius Mason joked after Woods' victory last month that the reason the tournament was negotiating a possible move was because the other top pros don't want to play against Woods at a course where he has overwhelmed them so. Even though Mason wasn't serious, there may be some truth to it; that the PGA of America wants to try to create more competitive balance elsewhere with the likelihood of Woods meeting the requirement of qualifying by winning
one of 2007's four majors.
Poipu Bay director of golf Craig Sasada didn't rule out the possibility of the tournament someday returning to Kauai. That scenario already happened once. The first time the island hosted the PGA Grand Slam of Golf was in 1991 at the Kauai Lagoons Kiele Course. It moved to PGA West in La Quinta, Calif., for 1992 and '93 (because of the massive destruction Hurricane Iniki caused to the Garden Isle in September 1992) before coming to Poipu Bay in 1994.
Woods said publicly on two previous occasions that he would miss visiting Hawaii if he qualifies for the Grand Slam again and wondered why the PGA of America would want to move it.
At his most recent Grand Slam victory last month, Woods said he wasn't sure if he would open the 2007 season at the Mercedes Championships at Kapalua on Maui in January or not. He has never played at the Sony Open in Hawaii at the Waialae Country Club -- the PGA Tour's second stop -- so Hawaii fans might not have a chance to see the world's No. 1 golfer next year.
Kauai's loss is Bermuda's gain.
"The PGA Grand Slam of Golf marks a new chapter in its history by visiting the beautiful island of Bermuda, which is no stranger to hosting the finest players in the game," new PGA of America president Brian Whitcomb said in the organization's news release yesterday.
The Mid Ocean Club in Tucker's Town, Bermuda, is the new PGA Grand Slam of Golf's home. It has hosted many prominent people in the past, including Winston Churchill, Babe Ruth, Pres. Dwight Eisenhower and Pres. George H.W. Bush, according to the PGA of America.
"One of our top priorities has been to attract a televised golf event that will deliver the best players in the world to showcase Bermuda as a world-class golf destination," Bermuda director of tourism Cherie Lynn Whittier said in the release. "It fits our objectives perfectly."
Sasada said it's hard for him to pinpoint the reason the tournament is gone, and he doesn't think the issue was money or lack thereof.
But Hawaii's loss will also be an economic one. Broadcast live by TNT, the event was seen by millions around the world, giving valuable exposure to Kauai as a tourist destination.
"It helped a lot of businesses here," Sasada said. "And they (the PGA of America) gave $35,000 to the Hawaii State Junior Golf Association last year. And (the PGA of America) was the No. 1 (source of funds) for Kauai Junior Golf. Those organizations will have to find other avenues."
And Kauai fans now have to go elsewhere to get their big-time golf fix. The highlights over the years are too many to count. Among them:
» Ben Crenshaw's magical 50-yard chip for eagle on the 18th hole to win it in 1995. The shot appeared to be going way past the stick, but bounced and went straight into the hole, leaving Crenshaw feeling almost embarrassed to take the title with such a lucky stroke.
» Phil Mickelson's course-record 59 in the second round in 2004, when Woods failed to qualify for only the second time since turning pro in 1997.
» Woods' eagle-eagle finish (on the par-5 18th hole in regulation and again in a playoff) to beat Vijay Singh in 2000.
» Woods' chip-in on No. 9 in the second round this year to tie Jim Furyk, who had taken a 3-shot first-round lead. Woods later went ahead for good by draining an uphill 12-footer on No. 15, the same hole where Furyk missed a downhill 6-footer by inches after discussing the intricacies of the putt with his caddie (and Woods' former caddie) Fluff Cowan.
"There were a lot of great moments and great shots," Sasada said. "That 18th is an easy hole for them, but it made for a lot of exciting finishes. Tiger and Vijay both eagled that last hole (in regulation in 2000)."
Greg Norman, Tom Lehman and Ernie Els also won at Poipu Bay (Ian Woosnam won the only event at Kauai Lagoons), and the list of others who paraded through Poipu Bay is impressive: Nick Faldo, Davis Love III, Nick Price, Jose Maria Olazabal, Paul Azinger, Tom Lehman, Mark O'Meara, Retief Goosen, David Toms, David Duval and Justin Leonard, among others.
John Daly, golf's phenom back in 1991, finished last twice in the Grand Slam, once each at Poipu Bay and Kauai Lagoons.
The late Payne Stewart, who was third in 1991, was set to play in the 1999 Grand Slam after winning the U.S. Open that year, but died a month before the event due to a lack of oxygen while traveling on a Lear jet that eventually crashed.
"We had a good run and we had a great relationship with the PGA and TNT," said Sasada, who learned that the Bermuda contract is for one year with an option for another. "It will definitely be missed. You can't buy that kind of public relations."