PGA Champions Event is a Win for Maui Nonprofits
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22-year-old golfing phenom Jordan Spieth continued his winning ways, taking home the victory at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions Sunday at Kapalua’s Plantation Golf Course. But the PGA event is also a win for Maui, putting the island on the world’s stage and bringing huge donations to local nonprofits.
“Since 1999, we’ve distributed over $5.3 million, all of it staying it right here on Maui,” says tournament director Nancy Cross.
Cross says title sponsor Hyundai has been a solid partner, hosting the Hope on Wheels 5K run at Whalers Village in Kāʻanapali to benefit Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children. “They’re really focused on pediatric cancer and so it’s been a great mutual team effort,” she explains. “But we love that we keep the funds right here on Maui to help our nonprofits.”
Those nonprofits include Friends of the Children’s Justice Center, Boy Scouts, Hale Makua, Ka Lima O Maui, Lahainaluna High School Foundation, Hawaii State Junior Golf and Maui Junior Golf.
Cross also says the four-day event gives Maui a lot of face time on television, with around 60 broadcast hours on NBC and Golf Channel.
“So all the folks back East in the cold, cold weather are saying, ‘Boy, I wish I was in Hawai’i and I wish I was playing at the Plantation Course,’” she smiles.
In case you’re wondering, it was about 83 degrees in Kapalua on Sunday, versus high temperatures in the 40’s for parts of New England and even Texas!
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The Kapalua course celebrates its 25th anniversary this year; between the Plantation Course and its Bay Course, it’s been hosting PGA tournaments since the 1990’s. On Sunday, winner Jordan Spieth became only the second player in PGA Tour history to finish a 72-hole tournament at 30-under par or lower.
“How often on a small island like this do you get six of the top 10 players in the world to come and visit,” says Mike Brown, general manager of Kapalua Golf and Tennis. “All the people from Maui can come out and see the best players in the world.”
Some of those players shared their impressions about the Plantation Course, with its memorable terrain and sweeping ocean views.
Jordan Spieth played six rounds of golf on the course before the tournament even started, saying, “I started to feel comfortable, a little more comfortable each day.”
He mentions some pros and cons, describing the greens as “the slowest I’ve ever putted on in a PGA Tour event,” but also expressing his familiarity with the course’s Bermuda grass. “I feel comfortable on any course with Bermuda, more so than I feel anywhere else,” he says.
2015 event champion Patrick Reed agreed the greens seemed slow, particularly on Friday, adding, “They can be challenging.”
Rickie Fowler mentioned the wind as a challenge in the tournament’s early days, and addressed his experience with ‘lies,’ which is a term for where the golf ball sits. “Outside of Augusta, it’s probably the only place where you can get lies like that. And TV doesn’t do it justice,” he says.
This was Kevin Kisner’s first time playing on the Kapalua course.
“It’s a totally unique golf course,” he explains. “I don’t know how an amateur would play it that well, because a bad shot is so penal with all these forced carries.”
He says walking the large course can be a little tough, but “it’s fun to play, and it’s cool to hit a bunch of different shots and see,” he explains. “So it’s cool to see different ways to play it.”