LMKI Tournament History
Its difficult to imagine a time when the PGA TOUR
schedule didnt run from January to December, but it
wasnt long ago when the heart of the televised golf season
ended in late August and there was no PGA TOUR golf in the final
two months of the year.
Then along came Mark Rolfing and the Kapalua resort on Maui. Their idea for a post-season stroke-play championship eventually helped change the face of professional golf in America. Kapalua gave rise to what is now known as the "Second Season" on the PGA TOUR.
Kapalua's reputation for great performances dates back to its first tournament in 1982, then called the Kapalua Open. Hawaii native David Ishii shot three rounds under par on The Bay Course and beat a stellar field for the title and first place check of $15,000. USA Network televised a 30 minute highlight show of that first championship, which featured well known players such as Hale Irwin, John Mahaffey, Craig Stadler, Ben Crenshaw and Curtis Strange.
"That was a great start for us," said Rolfing, the accomplished ABC golf reporter who was Kapalua's marketing director at the time and now serves as tournament chairman. "People had to sit up and take notice."
Which was precisely the reason the tournament was started - to bring more attention to the Maui island resort. But prior to that first competition doubt abounded over whether a late season golf event could be successful. The PGA TOUR gave its blessing - but not its backing - to go ahead with the event.
"The thinking at the TOUR, as I remember it, 'You can go ahead and put on a tournament, but who's going to play in it? And who's going to televise it?'," Rolfing recalls. "They said it was too late in the year, but if we wanted to try it, we were welcome to do so. No one expected to us to find a television partner. In 1982, we were just having to test to see if we could do it." Kapalua found out it could be done - and with aplomb.
Just one year later ESPN televised the final three rounds of the tournament live in prime time. The purse grew to $300,000 with $100,000 going to the winner, a then obscure Australian player named Greg Norman. Since then, the Lincoln-Mercury Kapalua International has continued to grow, boasting a purse of $1.2 million, four days of live coverage on ESPN and ABC-TV and some of the game's best players.
The success of Kapalua's 1983 tournament (and a first year made-for-TV event called The Skins Game) inspired the TOUR to reassess the viability of late season golf properties. "The prevailing wisdom was that no one would watch golf, that it couldn't compete with football," said PGA TOUR's Steve Rankin, Vice President of Tournament, Sponsor Affairs. "What those two tournaments proved was that something other than football could be successful that time of year."
What resulted from that conclusion was the advent of what is known as the PGA TOUR coordinated event, which now includes the Lincoln-Mercury Kapalua International and The Skins Game.
"The turning point was 1983," Rolfing says. "We were basically playing by our own rules and after that, we decided it was best to coordinate our event with the TOUR. In the long run, it's turned out great for everyone."
"There has been so much talk about post season and its role in the game," adds Rolfing. "Clearly, this part of the year has become very important to the players. Kapalua is not simply a made-for-TV event, its a legitimate 72 hole stroke-play championship. This event started it all."
1996 Winner Paul Stankowski
|1995 Jim Furyk||1993/1994 Fred Couples||1992 Davis Love III|
|1991 Mike Hulbert||1990 David Peoples||1989 Peter Jacobsen|
|1988 Bob Gilder||1986/1987 Andy Bean||1985 Mark O'Meara|
|1984 Sandy Lyle||1983 Greg Norman||1982 David Ishii|