Not much bigger than the size of his own golf bag Hong Kong’s hottest golfer 7-year-old Tiger Lee is preparing to play on American soil — in Guam — for the first time. The International Junior Golf Association is poised to bring him and 49 other young golfers and their families to Guam from June 19 to 21 for an island-hosted friendship tournament.
Gordon E. Mailloux president and founder of the International Junior Golf Association said this would be the first of a series of junior golf tournaments that will spark enormous interest in Guam.
Mailloux told the Journal “The first tournament of the International Junior Golf Association will be a friendship tournament with Hong Kong.” As the first international junior golf tournament to be hosted on Guam the event is expected to attract a lot of attention in the Asia Pacific region.
Mailloux said “It will be followed by several other friendship tournaments with Korea Japan Taiwan Philippines and Thailand. The publicity will spread throughout Asia and will be a buildup to our 1st Annual International Junior Golf Tournament in early 2005. That event will attract 500 to 1 000 junior golfers — 6years old to 17 years old — from all over the world. They will be accompanied by family chaperones and friends. The impact of these events will add considerably to our tourism industry and will positively affect the entire Guam community. It will also introduce Guam golfing facilities to our Asian neighbors who will return again and again. We must make this event most successful since it will be the seed for future promotions.”
Mailloux said Hong Kong golfers could become particularly interested in Guam’s golf courses. “There are 500 000 golfers in Hong Kong in a community of 7 million people. There is only one public golf course in Hong Kong and it can only handle 400 golfers per day max. The call center at the golf course receives 40 000 to 50 000 calls in one hour people calling in for reservations — and I triple-checked those numbers myself personally. You must even sign up for the driving range ahead of time.” Mailloux said the course in Hong Kong was not easy to reach and golfers were expected to traverse it in good time.
The Guam International Country Club which has a strong relationship with junior golfers will host the Hong Kong-Guam Friendship Tournament. Gloria Cruz Cavanagh general manager of GICC said “Mr. Mailloux approached me several months ago regarding this idea. The Junior Golf Program is pretty strong — right now we host the Junior Golf League which makes GICC their home.”
She said the league uses the driving range arranges golfing days at the course and private lessons for children. “For 10 years we’ve been involved in some sort of junior program. We are the home course for schools that have golf as one of their interscholastic sports such as JFK and St. John’s. We will be the venue this year for the Hong Kong-Guam Friendship Tournament. Guam just makes a perfect venue to do such a tournament. Our junior golfers here are very strong.”
Cavanagh said junior golfers played a number of tournaments in San Diego and in Florida and that Mailloux’s idea was a good one. “What he wants to do makes sense — bring the kids from Asia to Guam.” She said the children would be able to certify for U.S. junior tournaments by coming to Guam.
“As far as GICC is concerned we love to see the junior programs here because they’re future customers here and their parents will also support GICC and play here also. We actually have families come here on Sundays and play as a family – it’s no longer a sport for the older gentleman; it can be a family sport.”
Pat G. Burke president of the Guam National Golf Federation the umbrella organization that governs amateur golf on the island said the federation was delighted at the prospect of the tournament Mailloux had organized. “He’s bringing a little kid we’re all anxious to see — Tiger Lee. This will be the first time he’ll be appearing outside of Hong Kong and on American soil so we expect to get a lot of press coverage.”
Cavanaugh said Lee’s participation would attract much media attention. She said Tiger Lee was a golfing phenomenon for his age. “This kid’s drive is 250 yards.”
Burke said Hawaii has been involved in sports tourism for at least 20 years. Geographically he said Guam was closer to Asia and was now beginning to tap the Asian sports tourism market. “All this is free publicity because it’s tremendous TV/media coverage that Guam cannot afford to buy.”
All the tournaments in the series will be held here on Guam. Mailloux is working to have the tournaments covered by ESPN and Star Sports an Asian sports channel popular in Hong Kong and numerous Hong Kong magazines.
The tournament is fully supported by the sports tourism committee of the Guam Visitors Bureau which allocated $5 000 towards the event.
Alberto C. “Tony” Lamorena V general manager of the bureau said “Not everything we do is to bring visitors to Guam but also to get the local community involved as well. When Gordon brought this to us what we saw here was an exchange between our local golfers and off-island golfers. It was a great opportunity for our children.”
He said sports tourism was one of the bureau’s major objectives for this year. “In the long run it can improve the quality of our athletes through either participating or even being spectators. Watching the training process can help mould our young athletes as well. Having the Yomiuri Giants here professional soccer teams from Japan the Japan National Swim Team and now the Junior Golf Association puts another notch on our belt as making Guam a credible sports tourism destination.”
The event has the support of Continental Micronesia McDonald’s of Guam South Pacific Petroleum Corp. and Nissan Motor Corp. in Guam. MBJ