NEW YORK: The PGA Tour is returning to Maui to start the new season with the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua, five months after deadly wildfires destroyed nearby Lahaina and claimed at least 97 lives.
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan had said last month he hoped the tournament could be a source of inspiration for Maui and Lahaina, about 10 miles away from where the PGA Tour has started its year since 1999.
The tour sent a memo to players Thursday that it will be back at Kapalua for the Jan. 4-7 opener. The tour previously had said Hawaii Gov. Josh Green told them to “go forward” with plans for the tournament and volunteer registration opened.
The wildfires killed at least 97 people, with at least 31 people still missing. It devasted Lahaina, destroying more than 2,000 structures and wiping out fabled Front Street that runs along the ocean and was a popular destination with its restaurants, shops and art galleries.
The property at Kapalua Resort was not affected, though a third of the staff who live in the Lahaina area lost their homes.
“Like so many around the world, we’re absolutely heartbroken,” said tournament director Max Novena, who lives on West Maui. “It’s a tight-knit community and we’ve experienced and shared compassion and generosity and aloha, and it’s been inspiring.
“Playing the Sentry in January is our responsibility and it’s a privilege,” he said. “We fully intend to use our platform to bring awareness, bring fundraising and community service to help West Maui and Lahaina rebuild.”
Green recently signed a proclamation that most of West Maui will reopen to visitors on Oct. 8. The area has some 11,000 hotel rooms, half of Maui’s total. The Bay Course at Kapalua opened on Wednesday, and the Plantation Course where the tournament is held is to open on Oct. 18.
Tyler Dennis, the tour’s chief competitions officer, said in Thursday’s memo that Green “has been emphatic in his support of our event and others.”
“There is no other organization in sport which rallies around those in need like the PGA Tour,” Dennis wrote. “Given the overwhelming support for playing the tournament, the tour and The Sentry are currently working on plans to further raise awareness and assist with fundraising and community service to Maui in a thoughtful and respectful manner.”
The tournament last year raised $694,705 that went to local charities, bringing the total to over $8.5 million since it became part of the PGA Tour schedule in 1999.
Wisconsin-based Sentry has made initial contributions to Maui United Way, Maui Food Bank and UH-Maui County, and Xander Schauffele and Collin Morikawa are among players contributing to relief efforts.
The Sentry Tournament of Champions, for years only for PGA Tour winners, now is for the top 50 from the previous year’s FedEx Cup along with any tour winner from 2023. Jon Rahm is the defending champion.