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Finau? You’re having a laugh

Drive for show, putt for dough: there is little chance of a star the likes of Tony Finau being lured to play in an alternate event such as the Bermuda Championship unless there is a sizeable appearance fee (Photograph by Julio Cortez/AP)

To listen to our legislators tying themselves in knots amid a sea of hypocrisy over whether the newly established Bermuda Championship will be a good thing for the island in ways that the 35th America’s Cup was not was to invite every urge to guzzle down another serving of MoviPrep.

The colon is a terrible thing to waste and so, too, is the people’s time.

Tourism minister Zane DeSilva is right to be patting himself on the back for the coup that he and Patrick Horgan III have pulled off in attracting the PGA Tour to our shores. The five-year deal to ensure the presence on our little island of top-quality professional golfers, and their families and other support staff, will be of infinite value to our tourism product. And it is to be hoped that the Bermuda Tourism Authority can maximise this turn of events so that the impact is very long-lasting.

The same was said of the America’s Cup before it was turned into a political football, battered from pillar to post to the extent that not only were Oracle USA the losers when the smoke cleared, but we all were.

Emirates Team New Zealand almost literally kicked the Americans into touch with their pedal power and, in doing so, they distanced world-class sailing from our shores in the process.

We helped more than a little, too, as saboteurs in residence.

It cannot have gone unnoticed how vehemently the Progressive Labour Party, the “here today, gone tomorrow” People’s Campaign and the many assorted acolytes campaigned against AC35, the hypocrisy shown on one hand by terming it a mere “boat race” while on the other appearing in VIP stands on Cross Island as the festivities were in full swing.

What gall. A bit of having your cake and eating it, too.

Who knew that the inhabitants of 21 square miles of paradise could be so resistant to boating?

Thank heavens for the Wright brothers; otherwise, it is unfathomable how 64,000 landlubbers could survive in such tight confines over the long term when sailing and the water are so definitely not for us.

The fallout from a rather embarrassing and protracted reaction to a longstanding international event is that Bermuda has been given barely a passing thought when there have been talks of new race circuits or other sailing initiatives, despite the obvious advantages that attracted the likes of Sir Russell Coutts and Larry Ellison in the first place, and which still exist.

Like karma, bad press goes a long way.

Now we have replaced sailing with golf — one rich white man’s sport for another rich white man’s sport, no matter the protestations of Kim Swan, professional golfer turned MP turned radio host. One delivered by one side of the political spectrum, the other by the other.

The unease in Sylvan Richards’s voice when trying to make a case for having a go at the PLP for being hypocritical was palpable.

Why? Because it is a good thing that 120 or more professional golfers will be playing in Bermuda in October and November. It is a good thing that half of them will be here for the entire week of October 28 to November 4. It is a good thing that all four days of the main event will be televised on The Golf Channel for five years — each of the 20 days showcasing Port Royal Golf Course in all its finery and the many spectacular sights of Bermuda that never, ever get boring.

If we are lucky, we may just go the way of the Sanderson Farms Championship and graduate after five years from being an alternate tournament to one that can attract the greatest names in golf.

For, make no mistake, unless we endeavour to underwrite hefty appearance fees — our economic status suggests we don’t want to be even entertaining such a notion — the best of the best will not pass up on a World Golf Championship event, even if it is in the Far East, to instead savour our turquoise waters and pink sand beaches right at the start of the shoulder season.

The candidate for funniest moment of the last House of Assembly session — and, as always, there were many — came when 36 tongue-tied MPs were fumbling either over the pronunciation of Tony Finau’s name or just his name, period — “He was in the final group at the Masters” is what DeSilva accurately settled on.

If the world No 14 does indeed find himself in a position where he does not have an automatic invite to the WGC-HSBC Champions, in Shanghai, China, where he finished runner-up last year after a play-off, he would be mightily disappointed. Because that would mean he has still to win a major, still to win a WGC event and has fallen out of the world’s top 50 while not finishing in the top 30 of the FedEx Cup.

That would be a massive backward step for a player who ended 2018 ranked a career-high No 9.

So, no, Minister DeSilva, Tony Finau or anyone of his ilk will not be exchanging a tournament with a $10 million purse and 500 FedEx Cup points to the winner for one with a $3 million purse and 300 points — not unless the chequebooks are opened.

As stated earlier, we are in no position to be paying top dollar for a star attraction.

What is more likely is that we will host the Cameron Champs of the world, players who are looking still to make their name in the higher echelons of the sport, and a handful of those who truly are on the way down having once touched the heights.

Champ won the Sanderson Farms Championship in 2018, his first title on the PGA Tour. For that he took home a cheque for $792,000. His world ranking improved to 121 after that win and now he is two places lower at 123. The leaderboard was littered with those who are there or thereabouts in the rankings, and it is to be expected that it will be they who fill most of the places in Bermuda.

But, on the plus side, many in that field were players who would be recognisable by local golf fans as stars of the not-so-distant past, such as Hunter Mahan, the former US Ryder Cup player and world No 4 as recently as 2012.

He is ranked No 425 these days but would not look out of place in Bermuda in a few months’ time. Tony Finau, for all Zane DeSilva projects otherwise — and hysterically loudly at that — would, though.