Top golfers flock to Hawaii for winter

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The renovated Plantation Course at Kapalua is set to reopen in time for the 2020 Sentry Tournament of Champions, Jan. 1 to 5.
The renovated Plantation Course at Kapalua is set to reopen in time for the 2020 Sentry Tournament of Champions, Jan. 1 to 5.
Tovin Lapan
Tovin Lapan

When the weather gets cold and stormy on the mainland, the PGA Tour turns to the Aloha State to keep its October-to-August season running through the winter months. 

The menu of major tournaments that hit the Islands at the start of each year includes fields stocked with recent winners, a tournament for crafty veterans, a challenge featuring the future of the sport, and a top women's contest. January in particular is packed with tournaments, with a trio of opportunities to see the masters at work on the greens and fairways.

Golf enthusiasts will find plenty of the sport's top stars on the Islands in the first few months of 2020, and many of the tournaments are family-friendly affairs with free admissions for various groups.

• Right after hosting the 2019 Sentry Tournament of Champions, the Plantation Course at Kapalua closed down for a sweeping renovation, its first since opening in 1991, including adjustments to the course to make it more challenging for today's longer hitters. 

Now, the course is set to reopen in time for the 2020 installment of this PGA tournament (Jan. 1 to 5), which will feature only winners from 2019 contests. The field includes Kevin Kisner, Matt Kuchar, Paul Casey, Cameron Champ, Jim Herman, Kevin Na, Ryan Palmer and Jon Rahm.

On "Aloha Friday" Jan. 3, fans, volunteers and players are encouraged to wear Hawaiian-patterned clothing, and sponsor Sentry Insurance will be donating $1,500 to local charities for each participating player. Single-day grounds tickets are $25, three-day tickets are $45, anyone 18 or younger is free with ticketed adult, and active, retired or reserve U.S. military members and their dependents all receive free admission. New this year, the Banyan Club ($100-$125) located on the eighth hole will offer a variety of exclusive seating areas and tented area with multiple televisions. 

• The PGA Tour event Sony Open returns to Oahu's Waialae Country Club course Jan. 9 to 12. Last year Kuchar took home the title in this first full-field PGA event of the calendar year. The tournament has been held at the country club since 1999, and is slated to continue through 2022, making it the third longest-running site for a PGA Tour event.

The tournament is also the flagship fundraising event for Friends of Hawaii Charities, a nonprofit organization generating funding for Hawaii's charities that benefit women, children, youth and the impoverished. It is the largest charity golf event in Hawaii and has raised over $19 million in two decades. Grounds tickets are $25 daily and $60 for the week. Ages 12 and younger are admitted free.

• Part of the PGA Tour Champions for golfers 50 and older, the Mitsubishi Electric Championship will be held at Hualalai Golf Course on Hawaii Island from Jan. 13 to 18. The field includes tournament champions from the 2018 and 2019 seasons, World Golf Hall of Fame members and eight invited players each with 15 or more career victories, including one major. The tournament also hold an "Aloha Friday" on Jan. 17. Tom Lehman, winner of the 2019 event, is set to return to Hualalai to defend his title. Grounds tickets are $25 per day, $45 for three days, all youth 18 or younger admitted free with ticketed adult, and free admission for all active, retired or reserve U.S. military members and their dependents.

• The Kings' Course at Waikoloa Resort will host the 29th annual Amer Ari Intercollegiate Golf Tournament Feb. 5 to 8. The event features multiple NCAA Division I collegiate teams. In 2019, after winning the individual crown and leading Oklahoma State University to the team championship at the Amer Ari tournament, Matthew Wolff joined the professional ranks and promptly won the PGA Tour 3M Open in July. This year's field includes 2018 NCAA champions Oklahoma State, 2018 ACC Champions Georgia Tech, 2018 Pac-12 Champions University of Southern California, 2018 SEC Champions Auburn University, Stanford University, University of Colorado, University of Texas and many others. Admission is free.

• Finally, the LPGA's Lotte Championship will return to Ko Olina Golf Club on Oahu's west coast April 15 to 18. The 2019 edition featured a lineup of top golfers including Lydia Ko, Hyo Joo Kim, Inbee Park, So Yeon Ryu, Cristie Kerr, Hawaii's own Michelle Wie, and Brooke Henderson, who ended up winning the contest for the second year in a row. The event has been held at Ko Olina Golf Club since 2012. Ticket pricing for 2020 has not yet been announced.

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