SBS saves PGA on Maui


POSTED: Friday, May 08, 2009

Seoul Broadcasting System signing a 10-year deal to be the new title sponsor of the PGA Tour's season-opening event at Kapalua was welcome news on several fronts.

After losing the Pro Bowl for 2010, the state of Hawaii faced the real possibility of having this winners-only golf event return to California in 2011, leaving the Sony Open in limbo, something tour commissioner Tim Finchem wanted to avoid.

The LPGA dumping SBS for another television system in Korea as its main sponsor left the door open for SBS to negotiate with the PGA, and it didn't take long to get a deal that runs through 2019.

“;The event has become part of our culture,”; tournament chairman Gary Planos said. “;We became accustomed to hosting the PGA, and we definitely wanted it to continue. We're pretty excited to have a bright future with SBS.”;

This deal should clear the way for the Sony Open to extend its contract that also ends in 2010. Mercedes-Benz had been the title sponsor on Maui since 1999, but it was obvious the auto company was moving on after it signed deals to be the official car of the Masters, PGA Championship and the Northern Trust Open.

Sony also came on board in 1999 and had shown interest in extending its contract, particularly if the Maui tournament was to remain at the top of the tour calendar. Without it, the first full-field event on tour would have had problems attracting top-flight players.

“;This will help the climate with Sony,”; Finchem said.

The new deal meant Mercedes-Benz was allowed out of its contract one year early. The tour's deal with Kapalua also was to expire next year, although Finchem said he expects the tournament will be played at Kapalua for the duration of the SBS contract.

Tour officials had been looking at alternative courses on Maui, but that was to appease Mercedes during those contract negotiations.

SBS had been the title sponsor of an LPGA tournament on Oahu, which ended this year. SBS president Sang Chun said its LPGA deal helped spur interest in golf in Korea, and he expects the same dynamic with its PGA Tour deal.

“;This is where we're trying to make a bigger pie for the PGA Tour in Korea,”; Sang said.

The announcement came at a critical time for Kapalua, which had its greens redone a few years ago and last year completed hotel and villa renovations while wondering if it could find a new title sponsor.