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While a big gallery gathered at Mid Ocean Club for the PGA Grand Slam of Golf,
While a big gallery gathered at Mid Ocean Club for the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, "Turn Bermuda On" brought the event to the masses. (Carr/AP)

Postcard from Bermuda: Whole country is turned on

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Not all the action was at Mid Ocean Club on Wednesday, John Byrwa discovered. At a special event called "Turn Bermuda On," hundreds of golfers and non-golfers alike gathered to partake in all kinds of PGA Grand Slam-related fun and activities.

By John L. Byrwa, Managing Editor

HAMILTON, Bermuda -- Sometimes the best ideas strike at the strangest times.

Take for instance how the idea for "Turn Bermuda On" was born.

"It was something that just clicked in my mind one day just before I fell asleep on a plane," said Dr. Ewart F. Brown, the Premier of Bermuda. "It just occurred to me that Bermuda is small enough so that the whole island could be turned on to the event. We didn't want the golf and the event to be restricted only to Mid Ocean Club.

"That's going to be a wonderful and beautiful venue as it is, but we think the whole island should enjoy the event, not just those people who are making it down to Mid Ocean."

For those citizens who did not make it to Mid Ocean Club this week for the 25th playing of the PGA Grand Slam of Golf -- won by Argentina's Angel Cabrera, who defeated Padraig Harrington in a playoff -- Brown and the Bermuda Department of Tourism created "Turn Bermuda On," a gallant effort to bring the action to the masses.

Thanks to sponsors such as Samsung and Bacardi Brand, Brown and company were able to install in bars, restaurants, social clubs and golf course clubhouses across the tiny island 18 33-inch flat screen televisions sets that broadcast TNT's Wednesday coverage of the 36-hole event. In addition, a 30-foot Jumbotron projection screen and speaker system were installed in the beautiful waterfront area called Barrs Bay Park on Hamilton Harbour in downtown Hamilton.

There people were treated to free drinks, free food, putt-to-win games and other free promotional gifts courtesy of the PGA of America, the Bermuda Department of Tourism and Bacardi. All while the giant screen showed all the action from Mid Ocean Club.

"It occurred to me that if we could find a sponsor that would let us have the flat screens, we could just put them all over the island," Brown said. "And Samsung came through for us, so it's working out in a fabulous way. It's going to be a sight to behold."

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That it was, especially for Bermudians like Dwayne Young and Yvonne Maloney.

Young described himself as huge golf fan, unlike Maloney, whose passion is restricted to cricket. However, the pair was unable to make it Mid Ocean Club because, as he humbly put it, "we're not that fortunate because we live half-paycheck to half-paycheck."

Sitting on a bench near the water's edge and watching Cabrera make his charge, Young sipped a drink and talked about what "Turn Bermuda On" meant to him.

"This is a blessing," he said. "We took six lifts just to get here and we're going to walk home after it's over -- seven miles. But this is a great and wonderful event. I feel blessed."

Young and Maloney were among the 500-600 people who took part in the outdoor festivities, according to Stacey Evans, assistant director of tourism promotional services for the Department of Tourism.

"A month and a half ago the Premier said he wanted to make it so every resident of Bermuda would have the opportunity to participate in this great and to understand the magnitude, value and reach the PGA is bringing to Bermuda," Evans said. "He wanted to bring this event to golfers and non-golfers alike across Bermuda so that every person would be a part of it.

"So we got this most awesome venue right on the harbor, we got Bacardi to sponsor the drinks and someone else to sponsor the food and the next you know, we had a party going on."

That party included young women models in pink wigs -- pink being the main color in Bermuda's "Feel the Love" tourism promotions -- handing out free backpacks and sleeves of golf balls. It also included young children trying their hand at two putting challenges for free t-shirts, folks sitting at white tables scattered throughout the area, and people taking in the views of the boats in the harbor.

"I'm not a golfer -- I've never hit a golf ball in my life -- but I am so turned on right now," Evans said. "I think the PGA has done an awesome job with this event, and we're so thrilled and happy that the PGA is here."

Jason Maguire and Robert Coleman were equally happy to be at Barrs Bay Park. The two Toronto natives, avid golfers in Bermuda on business, made it out to Mid Ocean Club on Wednesday then headed out to "Turn Bermuda On" to take in the festivities.

"I think it's a great concept and great for Bermuda," Maguire said. "And I think it's great that they're bringing golf to another area so people get to come out to an event like this and get exposed to the game.

"You can't go wrong, really. You're bringing the game to all the people, not just the wealthy and those who can afford to go to the tournament. It's a great idea, whoever came up with it. They should do more of it."

And Coleman? "I love the girls with the pink hair," he said with a smile. "And you can quote me on that."

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