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Slam coup high on Premier's list of achievements

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PREMIER Dr. Ewart Brown's legacy will be one of mixed opinion but as Tourism Minister he might be remembered best for the perseverance which led to Bermuda snatching golf's PGA Grand Slam from what had been regarded its permanent home in Hawaii.

It was a remarkable coup.

Given the competitive nature between countries, even US states, to secure such a blue riband event, it was no mean feat.

Many took issue with the amount of money spent to host the tournament, even moreso on the millions of dollars' commitment required to upgrade Port Royal's lay-out into a championship course which, if not already, will again be ranked alongside the best public courses anywhere in the world.

That's been recognised by the dwindling number of amateur golfers who have visited the Island in the last year, and it's an opinion that will likely be endorsed by the four PGA Tour and European Tour pros who will compete next week.

Some were sceptical about the value of the Southampton course's renovation.

Yet, how in a year it has matured into a facility worth the investment, will have dispelled some of those fears.

If the tourism industry were to ever rise out of the doldrums, then Port Royal could be a key to its revival.

The Slam might be the most significant advertising tool we have.

It will be televised around the world, it will make mention on the Golf Channel - one of cable TV's most watched channels - it will fetaure in golf magazines and it will be talked about amongst those who have made it such a success – the star golfers themselves.

Already this week it's been plugged in interviews with Ryder Cup hero and US Open winner Graeme McDonnell and perhaps the hottest player on the circuit, German Martin Kaymer, winner of this year's PGA Championship and who last Sunday became only the second player to complete three successive wins on the European Tour.

They, and late replacement David Toms, both expressed their delight in playing in a competitive but less intense tournament on a island which they have never visited.

McDowell is looking forward to it, perhaps to escape the attention and adulation which followed his match-winning putt in the Ryder Cup.

Some might disagree, but this year's field is probably stronger than any since the Slam was brought to Bermuda.

Kaymer (4), McDowell 13) and Ernie Els (10) are all ranked in the world's top 15. If the injured Louis Oosterhuizen (19) hadn't been replaced by Toms earlier this week, it would have been a quartet of the world's top 20.

If the tournament has had one disappointment, it was the failure to attract Tiger Woods.

Premier Brown would admit the prospect of bringing Tiger to these shores was high on his agenda when he began his discussions with the PGA of America.

And who could blame him? There's isn't a golfer in Bermuda, even non-golfer, who wouldn't have shared his enthusiasm.

But that 'failure' doesn't seem to have diluted the event's success.

While attendance has fallen short of expectations, it's the exposure overseas which really matters.

Had arrangements been made to play the tournament over a weekend, Port Royal would have been bursting at the seams.

Tuesday and Wednesday just aren't conducive to large crowds, and that applies not only in Bermuda but around the world.

Nevertheless, given the quality of this year's field there might be more than a few who will slip out of the office on Tuesday to grab a cup of coffee or have 'a smoke' and won't return until the next day.

* * * *

ONE blemish in the lead-up to this week's Slam, it's the surprise dismissal of the four Uighurs who have made a significant contrubtion to the course's pristine condition.

They have been among the groundsmen who have taken so much pride in a job which will be rewarded by the inevitable compliments of TV commentators.

According to management and fellow workers, they have been among the hardest workers, most conscientious employess, and always with a smile on their face.

Yet it's understood that those who run the course, manager and down, were never informed that they were about to be released – disgracefully only a week before their efforts were fully recognised.

It was a decision made by the Board of Trustees, headed by Wendell Brown who has yet to offer an explanation. Certainly the public deserves one.

Port Royal has been built and maintained by the taxpayer. And it's the taxpayer who has been paying the Uighurs' wages.

Very few agreed with Dr. Brown's surreptitious undercover operation to bring the four Guatanamo Bay detainees to Bermuda without even consulting with his own Cabinet.

That was the issue that most took exception to, but it would be fair to say that several Bermudians have since warmed to the Uighurs, despite that little is known of their past and why they were detained.

However, they've been exemplary employees.

Somehow the two Browns have sent out a mixed message.

Ewart hired them, Wendell fired them.

* * * *

FORMER football player and coach Pepe Dill spouted a vitriolic attack on this columnist in a letter to Sports Mailbox this week, requesting that I be shipped out of Bermuda for comments made in a recent Forum criticising former BFA president Richard Calderon for his decision to get rid of current Technical Director Derek Broadley and seal a deal with Frenchman Jacques Crevosier just hours before the next president, Larry Mussenden, was voted in.

But just to set the record straight, Calderon's dastardly 11th-hour deed still hasn't been approved by the affiliates.

Oh, and what Dill forgot to mention in his letter is that he sat on the very committee which appointed Broadley!

The article wasn't about how much Calderon had achieved in his tenure, but the timing of the contract signing.

That's the issue with which most were concerned.

Perhaps Pepe should join me in the boat. We can take turns to paddle.

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Published October 15, 2010 at 12:00 am (Updated December 10, 2010 at 3:15 pm)

Slam coup high on Premier's list of achievements

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