PGA Tour planning to play season-opening event in Maui despite wildfire tragedy

August 22, 2023

Harry How

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said the tour remains committed to playing its season-opening event in Maui amid the devastation to the island from recent wildfires.

The Sentry (formerly known as the Tournament of Champions) is currently scheduled to kickoff the 2024 campaign during the first week of January. However, earlier this month a series of wildfires engulfed the island of Maui, killing over 115 people with another 800 missing. The fires were spread out over 17,000 acres of land and caused over $6 billion in damage.

The ongoing tragedy seemingly puts the Sentry in doubt. Not only for the island’s capability of providing the resources to host the event, but the perceived optics of playing a golf tournament with an enormous purse of prize money against the ongoing struggles from the fires. But Monahan, speaking on Tuesday at the Tour Championship, said the tour hopes to be a “source of inspiration for the great people of Maui and Lahaina by the time that we get to Maui in January.”

“Absolutely,” Monahan later said when asked if the tour will host the event in Maui. “But I think at this point there's so many unknowns, and we want to be respectful of the challenges. We want to help be a part of the revitalization. There are a lot of considerations. We're committed, you know, if we're allowed to, if we're invited, if we're embraced, given all that needs to be accomplished, we will be there 100 percent.

“The PGA Tour, when moments like this happen, this is when we're at our best. So we don't have the answer to that right now, but we want to do everything we can to make certain that that's a moment for the people of Maui that is entirely helpful and inspiring. And I would also add that our partner in Sentry has been there every step of the way and is doing some pretty remarkable things right now alongside our team and we'll have more to add on that front. But we are hopeful to be there.”

From Golf Digest Architecture Editor emeritus Ron Whitten:

Most golf fans are familiar with Kapalua Golf Club’s Plantation Course, home of the PGA Tour's opening event each year. Located on the north shore of the Hawaiian island of Maui, the Plantation was built from open, windswept pineapple fields on the pronounced slope of a volcano and is irrigated by sprinklers pressured solely by gravity.

As the first design collaboration by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, it unveiled their joint admiration for old-style courses. The blind drive on the fourth, the cut-the-corner drives on the fifth and sixth are all based on tee shots found at National Golf Links. So, too, are its punchbowl green and strings of diagonal bunkers.

It's also a massive course, built on a huge scale, Coore says, to accommodate the wind and the slope and the fact that it gets mostly resort play.

So it's a big course. But what sets it apart in my mind are the little things. When I played the course years ago with Coore, it took only one hole for me to appreciate one of its subtleties. We were on the tee of the par-3 second, an OK hole but nothing riveting, nothing like the canyon-carry par-3 eighth or the ocean-backdropped par-3 11th. The second sits on a rare flat portion of the property. The green sits at a diagonal, angling left to right, and there's a string of bunkers staggering up the right side of the green. The first bunker appears to be directly in front of the green but is actually 40 yards short of it. When pointed out to me, I called it Gingerbread. Bill disagreed.

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Founded in 1953, the tournament’s field was historically restricted to winners from the previous year. A change was made in 2021 to invite all those who made the Tour Championship due to the abbreviated 2020 COVID-19 season, and in 2023 the field now includes the top 30 players from the final FedExCup standings who qualified for the previous year’s Tour Championship in addition to the previous calendar year winners. Additionally, with the tour revamping its fall season, the 2024 edition of the Sentry will mark the official opening of the new season.