Coral Ocean Point Golf Course in Obyan officially opens to the public today and, this early, it already has over 400 reservations for the weekend up to Monday next week.
The formal opening was preceded by a ribbon-cutting ceremony and invitational game yesterday that was attended by E-Land/Micronesia Resort Inc. management and employees, elected officials, business leaders, and golf enthusiasts.
E-Land/Micronesia Resort Inc. president and CEO Brian Shin kickstarted yesterday’s ceremony with a short story of COP’s journey before opening the golf course. “The whole course was completely destroyed and non-existent after Super Typhoon Yutu. …Hole No. 7 disappeared, a 40-foot shipping container flew and landed on the fairway, and hundreds of trees were uprooted and blown to the ocean,” he said.
“After repairs, the plan was to open the resort in July …but COVID-19 hit. …But we are now here, the COP Golf Course is open and here for the community. …Special thanks to my team who worked day in and day out to make this course what it is today. …We recruited our golf course manager, Lee Chang Hyun, from Korea and he is the one who built this course from scratch. …He was on the field 18 months,” he added.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, who graced the occasion, recalled living just a block away from COP when he was child. “Seeing COP open and active again in the community means a lot to me. It shows us there is hope and light at the end of the tunnel. Like what we are working on in the CNMI Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers, we are preparing our tourist destinations, tourist sites like this golf course before the tourists comes back. Congratulations to E-Land,” he said.
Pacific Island Club Saipan general manager Gloria Cavanagh said the reopening of the golf course is good for the economy. “We have been rehiring and hiring people and E-Land has been working hard to open to give the people of the CNMI more opportunities. …We have seen the demand for us to open because there were only two golf courses on island,” she said. PIC is a sister company of COP.
“Golf is the sport of choice during this time because, aside from promoting health, it is played outdoors, which is extremely safe during a pandemic. It helps too that we do not have community infection and we sure hope it stays that way until we all get out through this and everybody is vaccinated,” she added.
Golf enthusiasts and longtime players Shayne Villanueva, of AON Insurance, and James Benavente, of Micronesia Environmental Service LLC, have been waiting for the reopening of the COP Golf Course for years
“I am so excited to play on the course and excited for E-Land as well for investing and re-investing in the CNMI. I grew up in the south side of Saipan and it is great have our local course open back and giving the south opportunities for growth. I have been playing here since I was a child. One of the highlights was golf at night and I truly enjoyed that,” Villanueva said.
Benavente said the reopening is good news. “It’s a beautiful course that is right along the beach and cliffs. …I find that hole No. 18 is a difficult hole—it’s long and but I feel good today for it is a new year, new course, new game. Congratulations to COP,” he said.
According to COP Golf Course general manager Calvin Eunpyung Park, the repair and renovation of the golf course didn’t veer away from the original design of legendary PGA player and golf course architect Larry Nelson. “We followed Mr. Nelson’s design all the way. …We planted grass, replaced all the greens in all holes because that is very important in all holes, and we planted hundreds of trees again so players can take a rest under the shade. …For fun, we added animal décor along the course…an alligator, shark, and turtle,” he said.
Shin is confident that opening the COP Golf Course will show the world that the CNMI is getting ready for the return of tourists. “Our goal is the same with all CNMI leaders, business owners, and golf players—we want to build up the Marianas to where it was pre-COVID-19 and we trust that our tourists will come back very soon,” he said.
“I believe that opening this course means a lot not just for our company, but for community and economy as well,” he added
Also present yesterday were Senate President Jude Hofschnieder (R-Tinian), Sen. Justo Quitugua (R-Saipan), Sen. Vinnie F. Sablan (R-Saipan), Sen. Victor Hocog (R-Rota), House Speaker Edmund Villagomez (R-Saipan), House vice speaker Rep. B.J. Attao (R-Saipan), Rep. Ralph Yumul (R-Saipan), Rep. Sheila Babauta (D-Saipan), Rep. Leila Staffler (D-Saipan), Rep. Lee Pan Guerrero (R-Saipan), Rep. Angel Demapan (R-Saipan), Rep. Joel Camacho (R-Saipan), Saipan Mayor David Apatang, Tinian Mayor Edwin Aldan, Aileen Torres of Department of Public Lands, and Commonwealth Ports Authority executive director Christopher Tenorio.