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Scrapping Open the ‘hardest decision’

Craig Brown said that deciding to cancel this year's Bermuda Open was one of the “hardest decisions” he has had to make.

The Bermuda Golf Association president announced the move yesterday, citing a lack of sponsorship and dwindling resources as the main reasons behind the removal of the association's flagship event.

Brown though hopes the event will return in 2017 and eventually become a “crown jewel of golf in Bermuda”.

An event that has diminished considerably in stature during the past decade, the Open suffered from the arrival of the PGA Grand Slam of Golf in Bermuda and the change in the qualifying for the professional tours.

With constant changes to the event's place in the calendar and an ongoing fight to secure funding, the BGA has finally decided that enough is enough.

“Over the years, the BGA has needed to make a large financial commitment to stage the Bermuda Open, and given the current financial position of the association, this is no longer a viable option,” Craig Brown, the BGA president, said.

“It's not sustained itself at a level you would expect a national championship to be at. We don't have the finances, nor do we have the resources to pull something together that we feel warrants that [title].”

Although the Open should be the island's premier golfing event, in reality it has been pushed to the side as the Bermuda Tourism Authority pursues the visitor numbers and exposure that can be gained by supporting events such as the Bermuda Golf Classic, the Gosling's Invitational and the Nike Golf PGA Team Championship of Canada.

These, and a host of other smaller events which have proven to be more sustainable both financially, and in terms of golfer interest, have taken precedence.

“It's been an ongoing struggle for the association to raise the funds, even though we have a good working relationship with the BTA,” Brown said.

“It's been difficult to raise the level of funding that we feel makes it [the Open] attractive [for players] and sustainable for the association, that's really what it's about.”

Brown hopes the tournament will return bigger and better than it has been before. However, that move will not be rushed and the overriding determination is to provide a tournament that is “of a standard befitting the title”.

Preliminary talks with minor tours, such as the PGA Tour Latinoamérica, have reportedly taken place, with the Bermuda Golf Association hoping to find a partnership that will elevate the Open's standing and secure it a place in an already hectic global schedule.

“We're still in discussions to discover what part of the season we can get the best traction, but it's also about putting on the right event for Bermuda,” Brown said.

“We've got big plans, we know where we want to go with it. We know the idea and vision, but we also want a tournament that the whole island can be proud of.

“That's where we are trying to get to, and hopefully we can make it a very strong event.”

While the desire is to see the tournament return next year, there is a stronger desire to ensure that it is only brought back when it can meet the high standards that the BGA expect of the event.

“There is a definite shift to put it back on the calendar for 2017, but again we are committed to getting it back to a standard that we feel will befit a national championship and the island,” Brown said.

“Everyone involved will have to agree that is the right time to get it back in to the rotation.

“We are fully committed to preserving the rich history of the Bermuda Open, and we are confident that a collaborative approach will ensure that when the Bermuda Open does return to the calendar it will be a much-improved event of which we can all be proud.”

A year's break: Jimmy Lytle tees off during the third round of last year's Open (File photograph)

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Published June 11, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated June 11, 2016 at 1:16 am)

Scrapping Open the ‘hardest decision’

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