Maui’s Pro Team Classic Golf Tournament

Miles Desharnais | BCBusiness

B.C. golf legend Miles Desharnais brings a classic tourney to magical Maui, matching amateurs with club pros from across Western Canada

Miles Desharnais loves golf. He loves to talk about it. He loves to play it. And over the last 33 years, he has loved organizing tours around it.

A one-time scratch handicap, Desharnais has been around the game for years. If you have a couple of hours to spare over a couple of glasses of Sauvignon Blanc, he’s more than happy to share three decades of golf stories, from the time he played with Arnold Palmer in a pro-am in 1978, to the time he learned how to consistently get up and down from a sand trap with Chi Chi Rodriguez.

The Cranbrook, B.C., native is the man behind the Pro Team Classic in Maui, a pro-am golf event hosted by the Fairmont Kea Lani and held at the three Wailea Golf Resort courses—Blue, Emerald and Gold—and the Makena course over five days every year in early November.

The 2012 version of the event marked the sixth time the tournament has been held in Maui and hosted at the Fairmont. Three years earlier, in 2009, the event was cancelled for the only time in its 33-year history, due to the onset of the recession the previous year.

“I remember telling guys in [November of] 2008, that things are going to get ugly,” Desharnais recalls. “And they certainly did.”

Since that fateful year, the number of teams entering the event hasn’t improved or returned to the numbers Desharnais was hoping for, averaging around 25 foursomes each year over the past three years. That’s a long way from the 84 teams that stepped up the first year the Pro Team Classic was held back in 1979.

“We had club pros from across Canada,” Desharnais recalls of the event held in Freeport, Bahamas.

Since that time, the Classic has bounced around various venues in the Caribbean and Hawaii, before settling over the past few years in Maui. The Fairmont Kea Lani decided this past year to step up as the major sponsor, after a financial services firm decided to cut back on its sponsorship spending.

“We’re quite confident we can get the numbers back up to 50 teams for next year,” says Justin Wood, executive director of golf and retail for Fairmont, of the 2013 event. “We’re one year into a three-year partnership and we’re hoping for the best.”

Most of the tournament’s attendees to this event hail from either B.C. or Alberta, and approximately 40 per cent of the attendees return year after year. They come back for two reasons: for Miles and for the quality of golf.

Desharnais spent much of his working life in Vancouver. He worked in sales and marketing for both the Vancouver Canucks and the Vancouver Blazers (formerly of the WHL) in the 1970s before starting Classic Sports Tours Ltd. in 1979, the same year he started running the Pro Team Classic. Even though he now resides in Kamloops, his professional golf contacts in both Calgary and Vancouver have served him well in ensuring the long-term success of the event.

In fact, amateurs who don’t have a pro to play with are assigned one through Desharnais’s connections—former PGA Tour player Dick Zokol, for example, has played in the Classic for the past dozen years. But the entrants also come for the golf. The chance to play all three Wailea courses with a certified pro is not an everyday opportunity.

[pagebreak] Wailea Gold, Blue and Emerald Golf Courses

The Old Blue Course, also known as the Grand Lady of Wailea, is the oldest of the three courses and hosts the first two rounds. Built in 1971 as a nine-hole, the Blue course has the most welcoming fairways of the trio. It is hard to get in trouble off the tee on the Blue, but where this course really shines is on its greens. Most are extremely large and difficult to read. And while the Blue doesn’t have the ocean views throughout that the Emerald and Gold boast, the holes that do provide vistas of the ocean—No. 4, for example—serve up some of the most panoramic scenery that you will find in Maui.

The Emerald Course is the site of the third round. The 6,825-yarder is the perfect setting to open on. The fairways are wide and friendly, the greens benign. And the views of the Pacific Ocean and Haleakala volcano seem to serve as a backdrop on every hole.

The Gold Course—far and away the toughest of the four courses—hosts the final round. Small wonder, then, that it was the site of the Champions Skins Game from 2001 to 2007. Designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., the course has lava rock features running throughout. This is not a ‘grip it and rip it’ track, as golfers need to position their drives appropriately to set up realistic second shots to most greens.

The final round of the classic was traditionally held at the Makena Golf Course, a Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed track that winds up the west side of Haleakala, the dormant volcano that towers over Wailea. One of Hawaii’s only sea-to-mountain golf courses, Makena is closed through 2013 for renovations that will restore its natural streams and mesquite forests to their original state, but it will play host to the Classic on its mountainside course in November 2014.

“A full field of 32 teams will play Wailea’s three championship courses this November,” says Desharnais, and the roster looks as strong as ever. There’s a reason 40 per cent of players come back year after year: weaving between lava rock walls and coconut groves, the Classic Pro Team offers golf course vistas unrivalled on Maui. Learn more about the Pro Team Classic at The 2013 tournament is tentatively scheduled for the second week of November.