The Sony Open is back in Waialae. And so are its huge pre-pandemic crowds

The Sony Open in Hawaii tees off this week with no COVID restrictions for the first time in two years.
Published: Jan. 11, 2023 at 3:32 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 11, 2023 at 4:41 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Sony Open in Hawaii tees off this week with no COVID restrictions for the first time in two years. Organizers are expecting the crowd and revenue to be reminiscent of pre-pandemic times.

“When we started working on this year’s event, we actually just went back and looked at all our notes for 2019,” said Sony Open in Hawaii Tournament Director Ray Stosik.

“We’ve taken the best practices. There’s no constraints this year on coming in.”

Some 50,000 to 75,000 spectators are expected at Waialale Country Club this week.

That’s in sharp contrast to the last two events. There were no fans allowed in 2020. And last year, international travel restrictions remained.

“After two years of pandemic and testing and everything else, it was extremely difficult,” Stosik said. “Not only for the event and operating it, but also just the charitable giving. It was a tough time for us.”

Meeting a fundraising goal of $1.2 million for the Friends of Hawaii charities shouldn’t be a problem this year.

And overall, the tourney is a also huge money maker for the state.

Economic expert Jerry Agrusa says the tournament is actually Hawaii’s most profitable sporting event behind the Honolulu Marathon, generating $30 million annually.

Agrusa adds those who make the trip typically stay for at least seven days.

“We’re looking for that person that’s staying longer, spending more money,” said Agrusa, a professor at the University of Hawaii School of Travel Industry Management.

“We don’t need more tourists. We need higher spending tourists and the golfer is a higher spending tourist.”

The Sony is just one of three PGA events in Hawaii to start the year.

The pros were out at Kapalua last week and the Champions Tour heads to Hualalai next week.

Coverage that essentially doubles as a long commercial for the islands.

“Having three PGA Tour events back to back to back, if anybody hasn’t been to Hawaii in a while or are feeling a cold spell or whatever, when you turn on your TV for three weeks in a row and see the beauty that we have here, that really helps the state of Hawaii,” Stosik said.

The opening round begins Thursday morning.