NFL royalty to help raise tourism profile
The first Bermuda Golf Classic is less than two weeks away and so far 26 American Football players past and present have signed up to take part.
Coming on the back of a busy March for golf on the Island — which started with the Amateur Match Play Championships and finished with the Grey Goose World Par 3 Championships — organisers hope the tournament becomes an annual fixture on the sporting calendar with the NFL stars raising Bermuda's exposure overseas.
That approach tallies with the aims of the Bermuda Tourism Authority who view the Classic of which they are a major sponsor, and other events such as last weekend's par 3 tournament, as being integral to the Island's profile as a golfing destination.
Gone, for now, are the days of the costly big money events, such as the PGA Grand Slam, with the focus switching to smaller tournaments that still attract a healthy number of golfers, amateur and professional.
“It's all about longevity and sustainability, not about a quick hit, not about ‘oh we had 50 pros come in, that's gone away,” Andrew Brooks, the BTA's director of golf sales and marketing, said.
“Would we have another flagship event? Maybe one day, but right now I think we have to build a sustainable platform, and then add on to that as we go.”
The Classic, like the well-established Gosling's Invitational and Goodwill Tournament, satisfies both sporting and tourism elements and enables Bermuda to “ride the expose the PGA created.”
Brooks said: “Anything like that, which is slightly outside the box, is good. But, it's not about doing it one year, it's about creating some sustainability for an event that is on the calendar.”
Changes to the Gosling's and Goodwill are also part of that move to improve the sustainability of the Island's golf, and while they are well known events in their own right, participation has dropped off in recent years.
To combat that, the two events have been condensed into one week of golf in December with the belief that more visitors will play in both.
The BTA hope the cumulative effect of all these tournaments is to encourage people to see Bermuda as a golf destination, not a destination where there is golf.
“People aren't sitting there thinking ‘I'm going to take a golf vacation to Bermuda'. We'd like them too, and that's what we would like to get to,” Brooks said.
“We need to think of ourselves as a golf destination, and getting people to think like that.”
The potential for getting “heads on beds and feet on fairways,” as one BTA official put it, is why the Authority is backing the various golfing events this year and why the Bermuda College Invitational, which took place last week at the same time as the Bermuda Open has been deemed such a success.
Five NCAA Division III colleges brought 50 golfers and their parents to the Island for several days as a test event for what could become a yearly competition.
Such was the success that the BTA are now in discussions with Division I and II colleges, with the potential for the relationship to extend beyond golf.
“It's opened the door for growth, and shows that a very small investment can create a massive return,” Brooks said.
These events may not have the pull of the Grand Slam now, but that does not mean they will not in the future.
In the long term Classic organisers hope their event rivals the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship in Lake Tahoe, a tournament that has been running for 26 years and is televised and co-owned by NSNBC.
Bermuda has already enjoyed a great deal of television exposure thanks to the Grand Slam, but Brooks said that the BTA would not be chasing events that came with television coverage as part of the package.
“We're not going out spending millions of dollars on this event because it's going to deliver this.
“We're all about golf rounds and hotel rooms, and the reality is that creating small events that drives traffic to the Island is our building block.”