By Karen Billing
Staff WriterTiger Woods most likely won’t have rebounded from knee surgery in time for this year’s Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines, but the hope is that the PGA Tour golf tournament will be just what the doctor ordered for San Diego’s struggling tourism industry.
Mayor Jerry Sanders said that the Buick would be a “boost in the arm” for tourism and the local economy when it returns to the fairways Feb. 2-8.
“Golf is more than a pastime in San Diego; it’s really a part of the economic lifeblood,” said Sanders.
More than the estimated $30 million it will generate for the local economy, Sanders said the tournament is about the entire world tuning in and seeing how beautiful San Diego looks in February.
Sanders said you can’t put a price tag on that kind of exposure. “You know people will come here after they see it on TV,” he said.
Course ready for playLarry Peck of GM/Buick made note of the phenomenal run the Torrey Pines course has had this year, the success of last year’s Buick, followed by the historic U.S. Open with its dramatic Woods-Rocco Mediate playoff.
Course conditions since June’s event are above par, according to John Maddren, golf operations manager.
Unlike the Open, there will be no graduated rough and the rough is currently at 4-inches, Maddren said. Green speeds also will be a little slower than during the Open. PGA Tour officials want the course firm and dry and that’s what they’re getting, he said.
New for the tournament this year is an opening ceremony bright and early at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 5. In past years the first golfers have just teed off; this year a Marine marching band from the Marine Corps Recruit Depot will perform and there will be an F-18 flyover.
Also new this year will be a bigger, better Century Club Pavilion for spectators. Set up behind the South Course’s 15th green, it’s going to be “the place to be.”
There will be a Kid’s Zone where children can hit balls, learn about golf and benefit from the occasional instructional visit by a PGA Tour player.
Charity chip-insLocal charities also get a boost in the arm from the Buick, thanks to the Century Club, a nonprofit organization that helps promote and administer the Buick. Club President Bronson Jacoway said the group is primarily a philanthropic organization that just happens to put on a golf tournament.
Among the Buick’s beneficiaries are the YMCA and the Boys & Girls Club of San Dieguito and local schools that participate in the Support Our Schools fundraising program.
About $2 million was distributed to 200 charities last year, according to Jacoway.
Two high schools also benefitted from a Sony contribution - new Playstation systems went to San Dieguito Academy and Canyon Crest Academy.