When the 2019 Sony Open in Hawaii kicks off this week, with its laid-back island vibe, the pros competing at Waialae Country Club will be treated to one of their favorite stops on the PGA Tour.
Though a mainstay of the Tour since 1965, the tournament in its current incarnation almost never came to be.
The origins – initially successful – date to the late 1920s. The event was the brainchild of the Territorial Hotel Company, which owned the Royal Hawaiian in Waikiki and wanted to publicize the exotic pleasures of the islands, which had been a U.S. territory since 1898 and were still decades from statehood.
In early 1927, as workers were shaping Seth Raynor’s design into the course at Waialae, a company executive named Paul Winslow wrote to Jack Malley, the secretary of the Southern California PGA, inviting “the sparkling entourage of golf pros who make an annual winter sweep of the United States.”
The Royal Hawaiian covered the visiting golfers’ steamer expenses on the Matsonia, a trans-Pacific liner that catered to wealthy American families. Hawaii’s tourist bureau pledged to help stage the tournament, and local merchants raised money to make the entire package enticing to mainland stars.
The Royal Hawaiian opened in 1927. Photo: royal-hawaiian.com
Much to the relief of tournament sponsors, 15 leading mainland pros accepted invitations to play in the inaugural Hawaiian Open in 1928. They included Tommy Armour, winner of the 1927 U.S. Open, and future major ch...
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