KAANAPALI - After an 11-year run on Maui, the last four at Kaanapali, the Champions Skins Game will not be held in 2012, two Kaanapali officials confirmed on Monday.
The event was played on the Royal Kaanapali Course from 2008 to its January run this year after being held at the Wailea Gold Course from 2001 to 2007.
"There were sponsor challenges for 2012," said Shelley Kekuna, the executive director of the Kaanapali Beach Resort Association. "So, we were not able to take on the whole tournament ourselves."
Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson are the two-time defending champions of the Champions Skins Game.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER?photo
Former title sponsors included Wendy's for six years and ConAgra Foods for 2003, but last year the event was called the Kaanapali Champions Skins Game with three non-title sponsors sharing the financial load - Administaff, Fuzzy's Vodka and Time Warner Cable.
"The event will not happen in Kaanapali for 2012, and to our knowledge, it will not happen anywhere," Kekuna said.
It will be the first time since 1988 that the $770,000 event will not take place.
Kekuna said the event could return to Kaanapali in 2013 or later.
"We are completely open to hosting it again," she said. "It is just a matter of how the sponsorships and how the financial situation shakes out. It is very expensive. We love the event, it is great exposure. We think it is great for Maui and that is probably one of our big disappointments, that it is leaving Maui. ... I believe it is a great loss for the island."
The value of five hours of prime-time television coverage on The Golf Channel to the Mainland in the middle of winter was huge for KBRA, Kekuna said.
"You're in the middle of winter, right?" she said. "The viewership alone was invaluable to us so people could really get a sense of how wonderful the weather is here in the middle of winter."
Tournament co-chairman Jeff Halpin, a KBRA executive committee member, said there is a good possibility that the event could return to Kaanapali in 2013.
"I think it is a real possibility," Halpin said. "I think you have a lot of good leads as to a title sponsor. I think it is definitely on hiatus, I don't think it is gone forever. It is not like Kaanapali lost it to another area or another resort. It is just not going to happen in 2012."
The two-time defending champion team of Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson would have been back to defend the title and will be back in the four-team field as defending champions whenever the event resumes.
"We had Nicklaus and Watson as defending champions again," Halpin said. "A sponsor not being able to take advantage of that, I think is disappointing. They got an exemption because they were the defending champions, but who wouldn't want Nicklaus and Watson back for their event?"
Halpin said the lack of a title sponsor is an indication of the economy.
"There was some interest, but I think the interest developed a little too late for the sponsor to be effective with their sponsorship," he said.
The event is owned by IMG and ESPN, so it is on solid footing from that aspect.
"Those are two heavyweights," Halpin said. "When they were unable to find a title (sponsor), I think we were all pretty surprised. ... We had a lot of momentum with the event."
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org