Millions of golf enthusiasts worldwide couldn’t keep their eyes off The Islands of The Bahamas this week as they gazed upon its pristine waters during the Web.com PGA Tour Great Exuma Classic.
The event, which was held at Sandals Emerald Bay, is a marketing gold mine for the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Aviation and for Exuma, according to the ministry’s Director of Sports Virginia Kelly.
“It means a lot to us to continue to promote the Islands Of The Bahamas as a major sporting destination. The event is being televised on the Golf Channel and for us that is major exposure because we are now in front of a targeted audience. The marketing value for us is invaluable,” she said.
More than 130 golfers with caddies, family and friends travelled for the event that officially kicks off the PGA’s Tour season.
Ms. Kelly says many of them are expected to travel to Abaco for the Great Abaco Classic scheduled for January 18-24.
Executive Director of BD Global Brooks Downing, the organizer of the event, shared similar sentiments.
“The economic impact is pretty meaningful because when you start to think about heads in beds it’s good because you are just coming off from the holiday season and a lot of people aren’t traveling yet. But here comes professional golf to bring a financial push. People are not just watching golf. They are out shopping, dining and taking taxis. All of those spends make a really big bonus for Exuma,” he said.
Mr. Downing said organizers are looking to grow the event in the future.
“We are looking to increase our fan base and make them aware of what it is like to swim with the pigs, go sightseeing, go to the straw market, check out the Fish Fry and all the things that go on in Exuma and experience the true Bahamas which is the goal of the Ministry of Tourism,” he said.
He added that golfing is better in The Bahamas.
“The Bahamas’ beauty really comes out in this perspective and when you can travel around this beautiful piece of property and you go out and see that water pop, the beaches and palm trees blowing in the breeze and boats sailing on the water it’s just an unbelievable view.”
Many of the golfers feel the same way.
Justin Huber of Jacksonville, Florida got the chance to experience The Islands of The Bahamas for the first time during the week but is looking to return.
“The course is beautiful. The scenery is beautiful and I really feel fortunate to start off the year in a place like this,” he said.
“I would love to come to explore the islands because it is the prettiest place I’ve ever been to. The water is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.”
Adam Long of Jupiter, Florida visited The Bahamas for the second time.
“I love coming here especially to this property because there are so many holes along the ocean and the crystal, clear blue waters are gorgeous,” he said.
“We’ve spent some time in Georgetown and been able to walk around in the stores. It’s awesome. It’s such a small community here and you can tell that the people very nice, welcoming and accommodating and it has been great.”
At the end of it all, South Korea native Sungjae Im was victorious.
The 19-year-old is the second youngest ever to win the world-renowned tournament.
Out of a $600,000 purse, Im took home $106,000 followed by Carlos Ortiz who walked away with $64,800.