Hawaii, pro golf happy together
KAPALUA, Maui » A newly signed four-year extension through 2010 between the PGA Tour and the Hawaii Tourism Authority was just part of the agenda tour commissioner Tim Finchem addressed yesterday in a wide-ranging interview.
The official marketing partnership that helps promote the state's $1 billion golf industry was created by the state Legislature in 2001. Its strategy was to combine Hawaii's professional tournaments, including the winners-only Mercedes-Benz Championship and the Sony Open in Hawaii, with a marketing package that promotes local golf worldwide.
"This is an arrangement that has been very positive for the PGA Tour, the Champions Tour and of course the LPGA as well for the last decade or so," Finchem said. "It's a partnership in which the state of Hawaii through the tourism authority works with us to support the staging of these tournaments.
"And, of course, the PGA Tour starts its season here, the Champions Tour starts its season here, as does the LPGA. This platform of golf that we see starting this week and the next few weeks has been, I think, one that's recognized by Hawaii as very, very positive and real value in return. We enjoy that support and that partnership that helps us do a better job of putting on our tournaments."
Hawaii has 80 courses across its six islands that have been designed by some of the most famous architects in golf, including Robert Trent Jones, Robert Trent Jones Jr., Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Greg Norman and Ted Robinson. Ernie Els is also involved in a new golf course being designed in Ewa Beach.
Hawaii has eight of the top 25 courses "you can play" in the U.S., according to Golf Magazine. Condé Nast Traveler rates Hawaii with 17 of the top 65 resorts in the country and according to the HTA, approximately 13 percent of visitor parties here include at least one round of golf.
"We are excited by the terms of the new contract, which ensures the State of Hawaii will be host to many prestigious PGA Tour events annually over the next four years," said Rex Johnson, president and CEO of HTA. "In addition to generating significant media exposure and revenue for our state, these top-rated golf tournaments provide Hawaii golf fans with an opportunity to see their favorite players in action."
Finchem also addressed Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson not being here to kick off the new FedExCup. Both also missed the season-ending Tour Championship last year. Mickelson hasn't played the Mercedes since 2001 and Woods has skipped out the last two years. Not having two of the world's premier players in the field is cause for concern here. Attendance and national interest wane when neither of these guys is in the house.
"As I said at the Tour Championship about the same phenomena, sort of disappointed about that," Finchem said. "But let me make two comments. One is that your question goes to the future, and I'm focused on the future, but I'm also focused on the FedExCup right now. The future, in my view, has a lot to do with the new schedule. And we're not going to know until next year how that plays out.
"It's our assumption that the changes we've made on the schedule that relate to the FedExCup will have some impact on those decisions, and we'll see. On the other hand, you know, I'm not trying to sugarcoat things, because I'm not. I am disappointed and to your point, having a smaller press corps here and less eyeballs because Tiger Woods is not at an event is not something that's a positive any week he doesn't play.
"But having said that, let me just make also another point, which is that somebody's going to be leading the FedExCup tonight, and it's not going to be one of those two guys. You know, that's a certain dynamic that will play out as the course of the year goes."
Finchem is hopeful the FedExCup, which will award a $10 million deferred payment to its winner at the conclusion of the Tour Championship, will bring a renewed interest to golf. The sport has become stagnant on the worldwide scene and this shot in the arm is critical to its long-term success.
"Anytime you start something new in golf, it's important to get some history on your side," Finchem said. "That certainly was the case with the Presidents Cup and that was the case with the Players Championship 30 years ago and other changes have come along, and this is a big one.
"Everything tells us we're on the right track and we are just excited to get this first one down and get our fans an actual list of points, which is going to begin the process of bringing people into recognizing what the FedExCup is all about."