Shane Nelson
Shane Nelson

InsightHawaii enjoyed a large dose of golf-related media attention last week as the LPGA returned for its first event in the Islands since 2009, and Australian golfing great Greg Norman announced a new Champions Tour event that will be played at Oahu’s Kapolei Golf Course this September.

Hawaii Tourism Authority President and CEO Mike McCartney joined Norman at a press conference in downtown Honolulu on April 16, where they discussed how the new Pacific Links Hawaii Championship, a 54-hole tournament featuring professional golfers over age 50 and a $1.8 million purse, could help the destination attract more visitors.

“This tournament specifically will help us in our West Coast market, which is our major market and our base, and also help us in China in our developing markets,” McCartney said, noting that the tournament would be televised in both countries.

Norman, who will compete in the September tournament, said the Aloha State was well positioned to take advantage of golf’s growing popularity in Asia.

“If we all think into the future with China, just 20, 25 years from now, I think no question about it, the East will overtake the West in the popularity of golf,” Norman said. “Hawaii’s been at the center of this for so many decades and should remain at the center for many more decades to come.”

According to Michael Story, the tourism brand and sports manager for the HTA, golf is already a $1 billion industry in Hawaii, and last year the three PGA and Champions Tour events held on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island generated more than $50 million in visitor spending.

The addition of the LPGA’s Lotte Championship event, which finished up on Oahu’s Ko Olina Golf Course on April 21, and the upcoming Champions event will not only add more money to that total this year, but also up the amount of time Hawaii spends on television.

“Those three entities, the LPGA, PGA and the Champions Tours, are the pinnacle of golf to many,” Story said. “Play on those tours is the best that the world has to offer, and the best the world has to offer comes to Hawaii to play multiple tournaments. … They showcase our islands very well, and there’s no doubt about it, golf brings a lot of television coverage, and that’s definitely one of the reasons we support it.”
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