HONOLULU – Sony Open in Hawaii tournament director Ray Stosik has spearheaded the biggest sports charity fundraiser on any of the Hawaiian Islands since 1998 and seeing the impact the tournament makes in the community never gets old.
“It’s a labor of love,” he said. “I always tell my staff, when we go out into the community, we see the fruits of our labor with things that we’ve worked on relating to charities throughout the last 20-some years. This is our 26th year operating this event, so we’ve been here from day one of Sony’s title sponsorship. They’re (signed) through 2026 I think, so I’ll try to do two more.”
Friends of Hawaii Charities, which is the host organization for the Sony Open in Hawaii, has committed a minimum charitable giving of $1.2 million per year, and donated $24 million over the past 24 years.
But the task of matching that figure, let alone growing its charitable contribution, may be challenging beginning in 2025 when the Tour is expected to implement a new formula for determining tournament fees and revenue sharing. As first reported by the Sports Business Daily, events were told in December that they would be asked to pay an additional:
$125,000 (FedEx Cup Fall)
$500,000 (signature events)
Those numbers will increase in 2026 to:
$250,000 (FedEx Cup Fall)
$1 million (signature events)
Tournaments will then be asked to pay the same fees in 2027. The trials and tribulations of hosting a Tour event in order to raise money for the local community just got that much harder.
“I think the initial response from a number of the tournaments was concern and how do we do this,” Stosik said during an interview with Golfweek at the Sony Open Saturday. “My hope and prayer is that the relationship between Friends of Hawaii Charities and the PGA Tour can come to an agreement how as the revenue models shift that we can work closely together to try to – the last thing we want to have happen is that the charity suffers because of some new financial restrictions related to the tournament.”
Asked if the Sony Open is sustainable under the proposed changes the Tour shared with the tournament sponsors during its annual meeting in Palm Springs, California, in December, Stosik said, “I would say between the Tour, Friends of Hawaii Charities, the state of Hawaii, we plan to make it work.”
But when pressed how he envisions doing so, he’s a bit more realistic.
“If all the charitable giving in the future rests on the host organizations without some PGA Tour subsidies in certain areas to help assist us with charity, then yeah, it could definitely have an impact on charities.”
Stosik said most of his brethren expressed concern about the beefed up payments and whether the new for-profit commercial entity known as PGA Tour Enterprises will absorb the tournaments into the for-profit side of the business. If so, what will that shift from nonprofit to for-profit mean?
“That may affect the charities on how much is raised at each event,” Stosik said.
He concedes that his throwback event faces some unique challenges such as rising shipping costs from the mainland and has a tougher time than larger markets in attracting fans from neighboring states. Stosik has a small band of seven day-to-day employees along with 1,400 volunteers and 52 chair people to make the Sony Open run like a well-oiled machine. According to the 501 C-3’s Form 990, the tournament reported a loss of $178,000 in 2022, its most recent filing. The host organization dipped into reserves as it had done previously during COVID when fans weren’t permitted to attend. Why the loss? Sponsorship dollars have taken a hit.
“A couple of different reasons,” Stosik said. “One is that they may not have felt comfortable inviting guests in a close proximity, which makes sense for COVID. I think one of the other ones that’s rather interesting, and I don’t know if you’ve heard this at other tournaments and what have you, but we have sponsors over the years that if times are bad in the community, then they don’t want to necessarily sponsor and have hospitality and do things when a number of businesses are struggling. We had a number of sponsors the last three years that just said, you know what, it’s just not right. It’s not a good time for us right now to be entertaining when others are struggling.”
Stosik hinted that the tournament could return to the black this year.
“If we could break even this year, I think that would be a positive as we move forward out of the COVID years,” he said.
Stosik and his fellow tournament directors took notice of how the Tour took over the former Honda Classic (now the Cognizant Classic in The Palm Beaches) when the longtime host organization struggled to find a replacement sponsor. While the Tour hasn’t expressed this explicitly, there is a growing sentiment among host organizations that if they don’t satisfy the Tour’s elevated revenue distribution levels, they could be next.
“We’re all aware of Championship Management and their link to the Tour,” Stosik said. “This all goes back to once they started announcing the signature events, and to a certain extent any event that’s not a signature event, I guess they’re all just watching to see what the future holds.”
He added: “We look to the Tour as our partner to work with us to try to achieve these new goals or asks, and that can come in a number of different fashions.
“As an example, what I’ve shared with the Tour, they have OEMs, official marketing partners, and they attend quite a few of them associated with the PGA Tour, a number of them invest in maybe some of the larger markets or the PGA Tour stops on the mainland. I would hope that maybe the Tour could help assist us with some official marketing partners, even if Honolulu and Hawaii is not the largest market, but if the Tour could think of some creative ways like that to just try to assist us, that would be my ask. I would hope that the Tour and their leadership takes a look at some of those things just to be equitable.”