Your Excellency, the President of the Republic of Fiji,
The Honourable Minister for Industry, Trade and Tourism,
Your Excellencies, members of the Diplomatic Corps,
The CEO of PGA Australia,
The CEO of Sports Entertainment Limited,
Distinguished Golf professionals,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Bula vinaka and a very good evening to you all.
Unlike His Excellency our President, I am not a golfer of any repute, or indeed a golfer at all. But as an avid sports fan, it’s always a pleasure to watch world class golfers in action. And I am always in awe of the playing skills of a Vijay Singh or Matt Kuchar. Or indeed any of the golfers we will be hosting in Fiji for the Second Fiji International Gold Tournament.
Securing the PGA was definitely a hole-in-one for Fiji. And I’m delighted to be here tonight to officially launch the tournament, which is even bigger and better than the inaugural event last year. With more than 130 competitors vying for the coveted Fiji International Cup.
A special welcome tonight to last year’s winner, Steve Jeffries. (pause for applause). Steve, it’s great to have you back in Fiji. Your return is a clear indication of the importance of this tournament as part of the OneAsia circuit and our growing status as a PGA destination. And I want to thank you on behalf of every Fijian for coming back to defend your title and show us some more of your magic.
Also a big “bula vinaka” and welcome home to our very own Vijay Singh, who also returns in 2015 as our Marquee Player. Vijay has come a long way since he was a ball retriever and caddy at the Tavakubu golf course in our second city, Lautoka. And he has done himself proud and our nation proud by making it into the top ranks of international golf and bringing such credit to Fiji. He is certainly an example to young Fijians of what can be achieved with drive and determination and we again pay tribute to his skills and look forward to seeing him in action here once again.
But to all of you – including our second Marquee Player, Matt Kuchar – I extend the warmest of welcomes to Fiji. And especially to those of you visiting our shores for the first time.
Over the next four days, you will not only have the privilege to play on one of the most spectacular oceanfront courses in the world, breathing in some of the cleanest air in the world. But you will also be able to enjoy our unique Fijian hospitality – the warmth and openness of the Fijian people that has made Fiji even more celebrated as a destination than its spectacular scenery.
I always say you can find a nice beach and a cold drink in any number of places in the world. But it’s the Fijian people who make Fiji special. “Where happiness finds you”, as the latest Tourism Fiji campaign puts it. It’s not just an empty slogan but the way it is in Fiji. And I hope you can all put down your clubs long enough to enjoy some of the happiness yourselves.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fijian Government is very pleased to continue its partnership with PGA Australia into the second tournament after our highly successful inaugural event last year. We appreciate your confidence in our nation and the event and also believe that Fiji is adding significantly to the brand value of the PGA. We certainly see this as a long term partnership with mutual benefits both for Fiji and for the promotion of golf for many years to come.
We want professional golfers to come to Fiji with their families not only to play golf but explore our other attractions. So next year, I urge a lot more of you to bring your wives and children to share the Fijian experience and not just keep it for yourself. I know the international circuit is very demanding. But come back when you have some time off and enjoy a lot more of what our nation has to offer.
Ladies and gentlemen, our partnership with PGA Australia isn’t just limited to staging the Fiji International but raising the profile of golf in Fiji. Getting more Fijians to develop a love of the game. Golf clinics in schools. The purchase of equipment for juniors and a hitting bay that will be kept in Fiji. We’re certain that there are more Vijay Singhs out there and we want to give them the opportunity and encouragement to hit their own holes in one.
With the Fiji International, golf is now part of Brand Fiji – our campaign across a broad front to take Fijian Made goods, services and events to the world. You can see part of that campaign this week in the Fijian Crafted brand of arts and handicrafts that are on display at the tournament and have also been used to decorate the golfer’s tent.
We’re very proud of our hundreds of artisans in Fiji who are keeping our traditions alive by making items that are prized around the world for their quality. So I hope that your experience at the tournament goes beyond what is happening on the fairways. And that you leave Fiji not only having played or witnessed some fantastic golf, but with a deeper appreciation for our people and their culture.
To all of you – players, officials, sponsors and spectators – welcome again to Fiji on behalf of the Fijian Government and the Fijian people. We’re delighted to have you here at Natadola. I hope you enjoy the experience and also provide some great golf for the vast television audience watching around the world. And I have great pleasure in officially opening the 2015 Fiji International and wishing you all a pleasant evening.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.