Author: Sam Gemini
MADISON – The 2021 PGA Tour season was off and running last weekend at beautiful Kapalua Club, Plantation Course. With a field of a minuscule forty-two players, the Sentry Tournament of Champions is an intimate event warmly caressed by the opaline Pacific and swaying palmettos of Maui, Hawaii.
What the Plantation Course lacks in difficulty it makes up for in scenery. It presents an exciting journey through hills and ravines with several spectacular views of the mountain-framed ocean.
The drama of the layout can be seen throughout the property: The fifth and sixth run antiparallel along a deep chasm filled with vegetation – the sixth featuring a roller-coaster-like drop on the approach. The seventh provides brief relief from this chasm before the golfer is required to play directly over it on the par-three eighth.
Kapalua is a highly unusual par-seventy-three; there is only one par-three on the back nine, but its beauty more than makes up for the absence of a second. The eleventh is a short one-shot hole situated in such a way that just beyond the green is a sheer cliff; golfers standing at the tee must pull a club with the knowledge that misjudging the distance could result in their ball’s plummet over the edge. The enchanting visuals do not make the shot less intimidating, though the sight of deep blue 20-foot breakers fifty feet below the putting surface is one that can only be found in the Island State.
The holes continue to meander through the tropical mountainside before turning back over the ravine yet again and toward the ocean on the brawny seventeenth. It all culminates on the par-five eighteenth, playing at a monstrous 668 yards downhill and downwind. The ravine hugs the entire left side of the hole, which overlooks the shimmering Pacific. It’s hard to imagine a more picturesque location for Harris English’s dramatic victory to kick off the 2021 season.
English, who had not won on the PGA Tour in over seven years, was one shot behind on Sunday at the eighteenth. After striping the fairway off the tee, he had a golden opportunity to attack the green in two. English flushed an incredible long-iron to within eight feet of the hole, setting up a putt for eagle and the win. Though he burned the edge with his putt and settled for birdie, he went on to make another four on the same hole in a sudden-death playoff – this time for the victory. It was an outstanding moment – surely the first of many in the 2021 season.