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Bermuda Championship to debut on PGA Tour

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We did it: Zane DeSilva, the Tourism and Transportation Minister, speaks with veteran golfer Pat Horgan III during yesterday’s press conference at Port Royal (Photograph by Lawrence Trott)

Bermuda is returning to the big time as a golf destination after it was revealed yesterday that Port Royal will host the inaugural Bermuda Championship.

The event is a new addition to the 2019-20 PGA Tour and will involve professionals who do not qualify for this year’s World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions in China.

According to Zane DeSilva, the tourism minister, it will be bigger than both the Merrill Lynch Shoot-out staged at Mid Ocean Club in the late 1990s and the PGA Grand Slam of Golf between 2009 and 2014.

DeSilva was at yesterday’s press conference at Port Royal along with PGA and Bermuda Tourism Authority officials to announce that the government-owned course would host the championship in a five-year deal secured by the BTA. The championship will be held on the same weekend as the WGC-HSBC Champions and will involve 120 professionals, including possibly two of Bermuda’s top young pros. It will carry a purse of $3 million and offer 300 FedEx Cup points to the winner.

As a boost to Bermuda, the event, which will run from October 31 to November 3, will be broadcast on The Golf Channel in 225 countries.

Bringing the PGA Tour event to Bermuda has been in the works for the past six months, involving the PGA, DeSilva, himself still a keen golfer, and Pat Horgan III, a Bermuda Open winner on his first visit to the island in 1986. He still plays on the Seniors Tour.

“The Bermuda Tourism Authority is thrilled to have secured this pinnacle event in golf for Bermuda’s tourism industry and community,” said Kevin Dallas, chief executive of the BTA, which will be the title sponsors of the event until 2023.

“We’ve had our sights set on a PGA Tour partnership because of the significant economic benefit the event itself will generate for Bermuda’s economy as well as the worldwide exposure to their audience that perfectly aligns with Bermuda’s visitor target.”

DeSilva has no doubt Port Royal will be able to host an outstanding event, in front of crowds even bigger than the Merrill Lynch and PGA Grand Slam of Golf.

“While Port Royal Golf Course in Southampton, designed by Robert Trent Jones and opened in 1970, will serve as the host course, all of Bermuda will be ready to extend our legendary hospitality to players, families and visitors alike,” he said.

“The top 50 or 60 players will probably be playing in China but we will have the next 120 top players on the PGA Tour coming to Bermuda.”

DeSilva, who represented Bermuda in golf in the early 1980s, credits Horgan for helping to bring the tournament to Bermuda.

“Pat’s been coming to Bermuda for more than three decades and he and I have been talking about holding a major golf event in Bermuda for a long time,” DeSilva said.

“Lucky for us, he’s part of the marketing and the operational team. For this particular event we’ve been having discussions for certainly the last six months since I was the [tourism] minister. It has been the brainchild of Pat Horgan III for all of 30 years.

“This will be the biggest tournament we will have hosted. As far as I’m concerned, I think this is bigger than the America’s Cup, which did get good exposure and was good for Bermuda, no doubt. But this tournament over a five-year period, and the economic impact it will have in that time, will be huge for Bermuda.

“I look forward to working with the PGA Tour and every year taking it to another height. With the PGA Tour behind us — and they certainly have the experience in hosting these tournaments — we’ll be in good stead.”

Horgan said: “We’ve been talking about this for years. Zane is an incredible ambassador for the game of golf on the island.

“We had meetings starting in 2012 and it was a long, hard process. Rarely does a spot open up on the PGA schedule.

“I can’t put into words how beautiful Port Royal is. This is one of the great golf destinations in the world and to have a tour event says a lot for the island. It’s a huge achievement.”

Ty Votaw, president of the International PGA Tour, is also excited to announce the major tournament will be staged in Bermuda for the next five years.

“We are excited to add the Bermuda Championship to the PGA Tour beginning next season,” he acknowledged.

“Bermuda is an appealing year-round destination and the players will love visiting in the fall, plus we will be hosted by an outstanding golf course. It promises to be a wonderful opportunity to showcase Bermuda, a beautiful island destination that embodies genuine hospitality to the world.”