Wednesday, May 22, 2019

[Editorial] An Open for Business

By on February 21, 2019

Editor’s note: The following originally appeared in the Feb. 21 -27, 2019, issue of Caribbean Business.

The Special Edition of Caribbean Business you are reading features a cover story on the Puerto Rico Open, a PGA TOUR event that is a testament to the art of the possible when our people set a vision, chart a course and work together for the common good. The event is a labor of love that commenced more than a decade ago when the organizers set out to host the inaugural event in 2008. In those early salad days of the Open, then-Chairman Sidney Wolf and current Chair David Chafey spent countless hours jetting to and fro, recruiting world-caliber talent—many of them former Major winners—to help build up a roster of blue-chip sponsors.

In taking their dog and pony show on the road, the organizers drew such players as former British Open Champion John Daly, two-time Masters Champion Ángel Cabrera, two-time U.S. Open Champion Retief Goosen—the list goes on and on. Importantly, the event also became a springboard for up-and-coming golfers on the tour; Major winners Jordan Speith, Bryson DeChambeau and Jason Day—all finished in second the years they played the Puerto Rico event prior to hitting the PGA stratosphere.

The event also provided a venue where amateurs from Puerto Rico—Max Alverio, Jero Esteves, Edward Figueroa and Rafael Campos qualified through separate tournaments in 2019—can play in a PGA TOUR event. That is enormously important for talented players from the island because it opens another door to the professional tour, a goal that often seems unachievable because of the competitiveness and expense involved. In 2017, Puerto Rico’s Rafa Campos finished in the top 10; therefore, affording him a spot in the Shell Houston Open the following week and the Valero Open the week after that.

Campos is currently on the Web.com Tour where he is ranked third after winning the Great Abaco Classic in the Bahamas in January. If Campos wins another Web.com tournament or places within the top 25, he would nail down a spot on the PGA TOUR for an entire year; then, winning one tournament on the PGA TOUR would secure his card [10-year exemption].

On the financial front, the event will generate around 5,000 hotel room-nights while providing direct employment for 700 people. This year’s event is expected to generate over $10 million in economic impact for the island. Throw into the mix an estimated 10,000 fans visiting the Coco Beach Golf Course over the course of four days and community initiatives that have helped raise nearly $800,000 that will be distributed across 70 nonprofit organizations.

It took foot soldiers, 600 volunteers who put in long hours and a board packed with heavy hitters knocking on sponsors’ doors for money to host yet another successful event. Fittingly, Monarch, a hedge fund that owns the Coco Beach Golf Course, has put significant money behind the event. So, too, have many other creditor constituents that have skin in the debt game.

Puerto Rico should thank Chafey and the P.R. Open board for that—they tapped into those wells and helped persuade legal and financial advisers who are putting in significant billable hours in debt-restructuring negotiations. Contributing to the event is the least the legal and advisory eagles could do. All told, they have made a killing—some $300 million according to the most recent reports by the court fee examiner— under Title III bankruptcy proceedings enabled by the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management & Economic Stability Act. Giving back to a bankrupt island that keeps on giving is the right thing to do.

Thanks to the P.R. Open Board, Puerto Rico will showcase its wares in nearly every country across the world. More than 500 million households will catch a glimpse of the beautiful golf course—now called the Coco Beach Golf & Country Club—where the tournament is held; people the world over will see our beautiful beaches, our kind and hardworking people.

Perhaps, most important of all, we will remind ourselves that we can be a productive people generating revenue too big to ignore. It is a testament to our resolve after disaster struck and saw Puerto Rico brought to its knees, a testament that we are capable of hosting world-class events with the common good as the end in sight.

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