[Editorial] Puerto Rico Shines on World Stage
For those of us weaned on Winter League baseball, rooting for the Santurce Crabbers—a roster with such names as Juan Beníquez, Rogelio Moret, Ron Cey, Rubén Gómez, Reginald Jackson, Elrod Hendricks and on and on—brought passions to the fore close to what we are all experiencing with Puerto Rico’s otherworldly performance in the World Baseball Classic. The truth is that Team Puerto Rico has done something unique—to unite a people in times of economic hardship and help us come together in the face of so much divisive rhetoric.
Yes, when the sky is falling—large balls of hail are coming down and we don’t have an umbrella—chichones on our heads make it difficult to keep a bright outlook on life. Thankfully, there are other rays of sunshine on the horizon—again in sport—coming this week, as 2,000 room-nights will be occupied when visitors arrive to either participate or watch the Puerto Rico Open, the island’s only Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) Tour event.
The multiplier effect of that event contributes about $1.4 million annually to the local economy in hotel stays on the island. Importantly, the coverage on the Golf Channel, which spans some 22 hours, will help to showcase Puerto Rico as an attractive destination with many stellar courses, 500 miles of otherworldly coastline, 500-year-old fortresses and a vibrant metropolis rich in culture and food—served in restaurants or on wheels—that rivals those in cities across the globe. It is a welcome change of pace and a towering achievement in the face of so many column inches dedicated to Puerto Rico’s debt crisis.
The saying “hacer leña del arbol caido”—the Spanish version of “kicking a dead horse when it is down”—describes the coverage that Puerto Rico has received over the past two years. First came Barron’s with its apocalyptic forecast of shutting down market access, then the negative press in the New York Times and one after another, we all pounced on the debt crisis as the main protagonist featured in so many stories. That the Puerto Rico Open could be held in the middle of this crisis is an accomplishment in and of itself—that it was able to surpass investment goals, a near miracle.
Led by former Government Development Bank Chairman David Chafey and former Puerto Rico Golf Association President Sidney Wolf, who helped found the event nearly a decade ago, the Open brigades helped raise some $1.5 million, of which some $350,000 will go to various charities in Puerto Rico. Along with other health and educational beneficiaries, a $100,000 donation to the Ricky Martin Foundation has been committed for 2017.
This newspaper commends the Rosselló administration for rallying behind the Open brigades, abandoning partisanship in the name of progress at a most dire juncture in Puerto Rico’s history. Unlike previous years, this year’s Open will be broadcast live on the Golf Channel, not deferred as it was in years past.
Unfortunately, the event takes place on the same weekend as the WGC-Dell Technologies held at the Austin Country Club in Texas. That means the P.R. Open does not feature the top players on the PGA TOUR, who are playing in the WGC-Dell, which is televised on NBC.
That is the next-level exposure that Puerto Rico is seeking. To achieve this we must secure an alternate date and raise some $6.5 million in prize money and another $5 million to showcase Puerto Rico on NBC across an entire weekend.
For now, the Open will suffice. More than anything, the tournament is proof of what is possible when volunteers and the private sector work in tandem. The Puerto Rico Open shows that we Puerto Ricans can join together even in the face of so much adversity to shine on the world stage.