Twenty weeks is not a long time in professional golf. That’s how long it is until the PGA Tour returns to Maui’s picturesque Plantation course for the 2024 Sentry (formerly known as the Tournament of Champions) in Hawaii. How much Maui will have rebuilt itself from the wildfires by then is hard to tell, but it will be a slow process given how difficult it is to transport materials to an island. Already, the blazes have claimed more than 100 lives with only 25 per cent of the burnt areas searched.
The usually bustling tourist town of Lahaina, less than 20 minutes south of Kapalua, has been the hardest hit. More than 2,200 structures on the island have been destroyed or damaged by the fires — about 86 per cent of them residential, Hawaii Governor Josh Green said.
That’s why Collin Morikawa concedes it will be “scary” returning to Lahaina, where the Californian’s fraternal grandparents were born. They owned the Morikawa Restaurant, believed to have been in existence in the 1950s and 1960s. The two-time major winner was asked Tuesday at the BMW Championship at Olympia Fields if he was “fearful” of seeing the devastation at Lahaina come the first week of January.
“I am,” Morikawa said, having earned his spot at the Sentry courtesy of being among the top 50 on the FedEx Cup standings who made it to the BMW. Those top 50 will be eligible for Sentry, which changed its eligibility from its previous winner’s-only status. “Going back to a place like that where I know I have so many connections … it’s going to be very eerie,” Morikawa added.
“Every year we would always walk by the store that ended up being where the Morikawa restaurant used to be. I am very scared. But I think with being scared, also you need to step up. You need to be courageous, you need to be brave. We have that ability to reach out to millions of people, [with] our network of the PGA Tour and being professional athletes, to make it better [raise money and aid]. Find charities, find ways to help out these people because, they’re doing all they can and it’s always nice to have a helping hand. Golf will be very weird that week, I guarantee that. It’s only a handful months away. Even with that time, stuff can’t be rebuilt that quickly.”
World No.3 and reigning Masters champion Jon Rahm also has an affinity for Kapalua from playing the tournament. He won the Tournament of Champions this year, a year after shooting 33 under par for four rounds and finishing second to Cameron Smith by one shot.
Rahm said professional golf should be least of anyone’s concerns when it comes to Maui. The Spaniard echoed Morikawa in wanting to use the PGA Tour’s platform to raise money for the island.
“Obviously the priority right now wouldn’t be [the tournament at] Kapalua,” Rahm said. “It’s really sad what has happened over there, especially for a culture that cares about their native land as much as the Hawaiians do. I’m deeply sorry for everybody that lost somebody over there. I know Collin shared a bit of his [grandfather’s] story … I’m hoping they can rebuild Lahaina as quickly as possible. If we do go and play, I’m hoping through the tournament we can help the community as much as we can.”
Along with Morikawa, who is donating money from every birdie in the FedEx Cup to the recovery efforts, Michelle Wie West said she is donating $100,000 to support “the urgent needs of these families” who are dealing with the tragedy.