False alarm on missile creates uneasy moment at Sony Open


HONOLULU — Charles Howell III was eating breakfast in his hotel when the restaurant at the Kahala started buzzing.

Everyone had their phones. Everyone received the same push alert.

“BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”

“All the alarms went off at the same time,” Howell said. “It got everyone’s attention. I didn’t know what to do. We all stared at each other. It kind of shows you the world we live in now. Your whole life can change in a second.”

The push alert turned out to be a mistake.

The scare lasted only about 10 minutes, a little longer depending on the source of information.

Some players at least knew about Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, whose tweet that it was a false alarm made the rounds quickly. But it was long enough to create an unsettling start to the third round of the Sony Open from the brief uncertainty and panic across the island.

When the Hawaii Emergency Agency tweeted there was no missile threat, J.J. Spaun replied on Twitter, “In a basement under hotel. Barely any service. Can you send confirmed message over radio or tv.”

John Peterson was playing in the final group Saturday, three shots out of the lead. He is traveling with his wife, her parents and their 3-month-old son.

“Under mattresses in the bathtub with my wife, baby and in-laws. Please lord let this bomb threat not be real,” Peterson tweeted.

The push alert was issued shortly after 8 a.m., and Waialae Country Club was largely empty because the first tee time was not until 11:05 a.m. Candice Kraughto, who runs press operations for the tournament, ran into the media center with news of the alert and asked everyone to evacuate.

A local golf radio program, set up in the clubhouse next to glass windows overlooking the ocean, kept broadcasting.

The staff at Waialae filed into the clubhouse to seek shelter, at first toward the locker room lined with players’ golf clubs, and ultimately into the kitchen. They didn’t stay long.

Tournament director Ray Stosik wasn’t concerned because alerts typically are accompanied by sirens. Even so, he took the alert seriously by telling volunteer chairs and tournament staff to stay put or seek cover

For most everyone else, the reaction was the same. Was it real? And if it was, where do you seek shelter from a ballistic missile on an island?

Marc Leishman of Australia didn’t get the push alert, but his wife did. They headed downstairs in the hotel.

“It’s an interesting feeling, isn’t it?” he said….



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