TURTLE BAY CHAMPIONSHIP
Champions’ future in Hawaii is uncertain
It will be another three months before the Champions Tour knows for sure whether it will remain a part of the Aloha Season.
The golfers certainly want to begin their year at Hualalai Resort on the Big Island and then come here for the Turtle Bay Championship, but there were no announcements yesterday about either happening.
MasterCard ended its 12-year relationship with the winners-only event at the Four Seasons Resort. That golf course wants to host the tournament, but a sponsor is needed to come up with at least $3 million to foot the bill.
Turtle Bay has been the corporate sponsor here since the tournament came in 2001, but with the financial difficulties facing the resort and the uncertainty as to whether it will survive in its current state, it's a long shot that winner Jerry Pate will get a chance to defend here in 2009.
"We hope there will be a tournament here next year," Jim Thorpe said. "Both of these tournaments are fantastic. We want to start the year here."
There has been some talk that a Korean company is looking into funding the event at Hualalai. The feeling is, that tournament has to survive in order for another one to be played in the island chain a week later. If it's not Turtle Bay, a logical choice would be Ko Olina, which is in the final year of its contract with the LPGA's Fields Open.
Golf Channel and NBC color commentator Mark Rolfing also believes the state of Hawaii has to get on board to help defray the costs. The Hawaii Tourism Authority uses the Aloha Season as a marketing tool to promote Hawaii as a place where tourists can not only watch the game's best, but play year-round.
"This is a wonderful golf course," Champions Tour rookie Fulton Allem said. "It would be a shame if we can't come back here and play at this wonderful venue."
Thompson plays on
Monday qualifier Robert Thompson
, playing in only his second Champions Tour event, chipped out of the back bunker at the 18th for the only eagle of the round.
It meant a lot more to him than most any other golfer in the field. That eagle dropped him to 2 under for the tournament and in a tie for fourth. Because he is not an exempt player, he has to try out each week to be able to compete.
A top-10 finish assures him of playing in Florida in two weeks at the Allianz Championship. That was also the case for fellow non-exempt golfer James Mason, who only got in this week because Lee Trevino withdrew with a bad back. Mason made the most of his opportunity, finishing in a tie for eighth at 1-under 215, and will play again in two weeks.
Thompson earned $73,600 and Mason pocketed $40,533.34 for finishing in a six-way tie at 1 under that included World Golf Hall of Famer Tom Kite and former European Ryder Cup captain Bernhard Langer.
Hawaii Golf Hall of Famers David Ishii
and Dick McClean
did their best in adverse conditions. Ishii shot a 5-over 77 to finish at 12-over 228 to earn $2,640. McClean closed with an 11-over 83 for a 54-hole total of 16-over 232. He earned $1,264 for finishing in a tie for 71st.
Hawaii resident Dave Eichelberger tied for 44th after closing with a 75 yesterday. His three-day total of 7-over 223 earned him $6,560. Former Kailua resident Scott Simpson tied for 14th at even-par 216 after closing with a 75.
Inside the numbers
Pate and Wayne Grady
had the best rounds at 2-under 70 and Walt Zembriski
had the worst at 18-over 90 to finish last and earn a paycheck of $864. Zembriski shot 30-over 246 for the tournament that had a scoring average yesterday of a shade more than 76.
There was only one eagle and 137 birdies mustered by the 77 golfers in the field. The par-4 11th produced no birdies yesterday and the par-4 7th only had one by Mike McCullough. He bent his putter on Saturday and went to the Turtle Bay pro shop to see what he could borrow. The one he liked was a ladies putter and it worked well enough for him to shoot a final-round 72.
There were plenty of difficult holes out there yesterday, with the hardest being the par-3 13th with a scoring average of 3.481. There were three birdies, 42 pars, 25 bogeys, six double bogeys and one triple by McClean. The easiest hole was the par-5 18th with a scoring average of 4.883. There was one eagle by Thompson, 25 birdies, 34 pars, 16 bogeys and one double bogey by Funk.
On the par-5s yesterday, there were 76 bogeys and seven double bogeys. It was the first time there wasn't a round in the 60s since last year's Senior British Open at Muirfield.