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HTA working to ensure future PGA events in Hawaii


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POSTED: Tuesday, March 24, 2009

When the contract between the PGA Tour and the Hawaii Tourism Authority expires in 2010, members of the state's lead tourism agency want to make sure that Hawaii preserves events in the next round of contract negotiations.

The HTA's contract with the PGA Tour was designed to ensure that the season-opening tournaments on both the PGA Tour and Champions Tour would continue to be held in Hawaii, in addition to four other showcase golf competitions. However, the PGA Tour has pulled two events from Hawaii in the wake of the dwindling economy and the subsequent drop-off in sponsorship money.

“;The purpose of the PGA contract was to assure that we did have golfing events in Hawaii. Now, we've lost the PGA Grand Slam and the Turtle Bay Championship,”; said Lloyd Unebasami, the HTA's interim chief executive and president.

Last year, the HTA cut the annual marketing funds that it paid the PGA Tour to $600,000 from $1.2 million due to the cutbacks, but continued to pay anywhere from $50,000 to $225,000 in site costs per event. Unlike other professional sporting events in Hawaii, the PGA has covered the bulk of tournament costs with outside sponsorships.

Now, HTA members are saying that if the traditional-sponsorship formula does not work, Hawaii's visitor industry needs to do whatever it takes to keep golf events in the state. Some members suggested protecting events by negotiating each tournament on a single-event basis like the Pro Bowl. Others suggested underwriting additional costs to keep the PGA Tour in Hawaii. A spokesperson for the PGA could not be reached.

“;My concern is that we are losing, losing, losing rather than gaining and retaining these events,”; said State Tourism Liaison Marsha Wienert. “;If we continue to lose them, we won't get them back.”;

Golf yields a bigger marketing advantage for Hawaii than other sporting events, said HTA board member Kyoko Kimura.

“;It only costs us $225,000 each for the Sony Open and the Mercedes Championship and we get to showcase that beautiful background for hours,”; Kimura said, adding that if the HTA has to pay more to keep golf events in Hawaii that it would be worth it.

The HTA also directed staff to build a stronger relationship with members of the LPGA, which began holding events in Hawaii three years ago and also is in jeopardy of event cutbacks.