Prince Golf School Targets Asia

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - January 26, 2011
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When Y. E. Yang sank his putt on 18 to win the 2009 PGA Championship over Tiger Woods, it did more than cap a bad year by the world’s best golfer and make Yang a hero in his home-land. It gave birth to an idea that has been a long time coming - a golf academy in Hawaii targeting Asian visitors.

Golf is experiencing meteoric growth in Asia where the success of Korean and Japanese golfers have spawned near fanatical support for the game and its stars. That dedication, and the increased quality of competition, has led Augusta National Golf Club and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club to invest in the now two-year-old Asian Amateur Championship. The winners of this event join their counterparts from the U.S. Amateur, British Amateur, U.S. Amateur Public Links and the U.S. Mid-Amateur as participants in The Masters.

It is these players who Abe Mariano, a longtime instructor at Hawaii Kai Golf Course, had in mind when he watched Yang pull off one of golf’s greatest upsets. He called Brian Mogg, who is Yang’s coach and who has academies in Florida, Canada and Seoul, got some friends to kick in $400,000 to finance the project and a year later, the Brian Mogg Performance Center of Hawaii is open for business at the Hawaii Prince Golf Course. Mogg says Hawaii’s location is a perfect venue for Asian golfers who often must leave home to work on their games during the winter months.

“Seoul can have some horrible weather. From early November to early April, almost all Korean professionals, whether they are on the Korea Tour or the PGA, they get out of Korea. And that is one of our strategies. To have them come to Hawaii,” says Mogg, who also has worked with eight-time LPGA winner Mi Hyun Kim.

Whether or not Mogg and his partners will succeed depends on many factors, including ones outside their control. But this is a positive boost for the state’s billion-dollar golf industry.

Hal Okita Jr., executive director of the Aloha Section PGA, says the academy’s students will generate revenue far beyond the Prince’s 27 holes.

“Whenever you get people coming over here, you are benefiting all of us in the industry,” says Okita. “It helps the people who sell merchandise, golf course owners get more revenue coming in, food and beverage people sell more food at the golf sites.”

The academy has created partnerships with Tachibana Golf Tours in Japan and Hana tours in Korea to help market the plan. All of which has the folks at the Hawaii Tourism Agency and Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau excited.

“China and Korea, I think, are going to take off with the available flights out of Korea right now,” says David Uchiyama, vice president, brand management at the Hawaii Tourism Agency. “That should be huge with the popularity of the Korean golfers, especially in the LPGA. I think China follows along the same lines. We are going to see the first direct flight from China later this month that coincides with Chinese New Year’s, and hopefully that will evolve.”

A lot of people are hoping he’s right.

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