Muni ‘open’ to tour­ney play again

Big Is­land In­vi­ta­tional set for March 9-11

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - SPORTS - By BART WRIGHT

After a three-year hia­tus for an end-to-end ren­o­va­tion, Hilo Mu­nic­i­pal Golf Course is feel­ing new life and will once again host the Big Is­land In­vi­ta­tional from March 9-11, but this will not be an at­tempt to re­cap­ture the past for club pro and co-di­rec­tor Kevin Hayashi.

“We’re turn­ing the page to a new fu­ture, that’s how I see it,” Hayashi said Tues­day. “We have a fairly small golf com­mu­nity here in terms of numbers, and we re­ally want to show­case what we have.

“Those lo­cal golfers who haven’t been by to see what we’ve done will be sur­prised, in a good way, by what they see.”

Apart from the com­pletely re­fur­bished pro shop, park­ing lot, res­tau­rant, the course will be a lit­tle dif­fer­ent on greens 9, 17 and 18, and that’s only part of it.

Don’t let the name Big Is­land In­vi­ta­tional scare you off. Hayashi said “there was an­other tour­na­ment with name ‘Open’ in the ti­tle so the Hilo Open, as it was known had to change its name.”

In re­al­ity, no­body gets in­vited, it, in fact, is not an in­vi­ta­tional tour­na­ment at all. It’s an open tour­na­ment, with golfers main­tain­ing hand­i­caps of 7 or lower ac­cepted, and even that isn’t rock solid.

“If some­one comes in and and has re­ally been work­ing on the game and is a lit­tle above a 7 hand­i­cap but feels this could re­ally be a ben­e­fit, I’m not turn­ing those peo­ple away,” Hayashi said. “We want big com­mu­nity in­volve­ment.”

To that end Hayashi and wife Teri, a teacher at Wa­iakea El­e­men­tary, have se­cured some new spon­sors and tak­ing on a new chal­lenge.

“This game of golf has been so good to me and Teri, we talked about it and de­cided to put our fo­cus for the fu­ture on giv­ing back to the com­mu­nity,” Hayashi said. “Golf has helped me my whole life, it teaches some great val­ues. It is the only game that asks you to call penal­ties on your­self, it has that per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity that’s a big part of the sport.”

Up­com­ing plans for the Hayashi’s in­clude the Big Is­land Keiki In­vi­ta­tional, which will also be open to all and the push will be di­rected at rais­ing funds for ju­nior golfers and other ba­sic char­i­ties on the is­land. Hayashi said by his count, the Hilo golf tour­na­ments have do­nated “over $70,000 to var­i­ous char­i­ties” over the years.

How the com­pe­ti­tion un­folds has had a kind of boil­er­plate feel to it at this tour­na­ment in that Hawaii-born Nick Ma­son has won five of them, in­clud­ing the last one in 2014 be­fore the ren­o­va­tions took place. In that tour­na­ment, Ma­son set a tour­na­ment record at 16-un­der that in­cluded a breath­tak­ing 61 on the sec­ond round.

Ma­son has also won three Hawaii State Open tour­na­ments.

“I’ve talked to Nick,” Hayashi said, “and he def­i­nitely plans to be here, but it’s so early right now it’s hard to say who we might have, or how many might en­ter.

“I hope it’s a lot,” he said. “We re­ally feel like show­ing the place off, the work that’s been done is impressive.”

The tour­na­ment will again be con­tested over 36 holes on the par 71 course with a Pro-Am on tap for March 9.

More in­for­ma­tion at big­is­land­in­vi­ta­tional.com.

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