Saturday, February 10, 2001
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Posted on: Saturday, February 10, 2001

Police investigating theft of prize money

By Brandon Masuoka
Advertiser Staff Writer

Maui police have launched a criminal investigation into the theft in the six-figure range from an international golf tournament that featured professional golfers playing on Hawaii courses.

The Pro Tour Hawaii 2001 golf tour suspended operations and left dozens of golfers without payment for their winnings.

Maui police yesterday said a report was filed by Pro Tour Hawaii this week and was assigned to a detective in the Criminal Investigation Division.

"There is a suspect but we’re not naming him right now," Lt. Bill Fernandez said. "There was a large amount of money missing." The complaint was filed on Maui by Stanford Mohr, Pro Tour Hawaii president.

Officials said 50 to 60 professional golfers each spent $11,500 to enter the 10-tournament series that was scheduled to be played on the Big Island, Oahu, Maui and Kauai.

Honolulu golfer Gregory Meyer played the first three tournaments and was supposed to play in all 10. He paid the $11,500 fee to enter.

"I’m pretty disappointed. I’m on leave at Pearl (Country Club) and my only kind of income is playing golf tournaments," Meyer said.

Meyer finished third in the first tournament at Waimea Country Club on the Big Island. He was paid $6,800. Hilo’s Kevin Hayashi won the first tournament.

"A lot of these guys have sponsors, but me and Kevin, we were going it on our own. · (It was) all my money," Meyer said.

The tournament Web site said each tournament boasted a $100,000 purse distributed to the top 55 players in the field.

Fernandez said the money that was allegedly stolen came from the players themselves. He declined to say how much money was missing, but did say that it was in the six-figure range and it was one of the bigger theft cases investigated by Maui police.

He couldn’t say when the investigation would be complete.

Professional Jay Hunter of Missouri said he finished fourth in the first tournament and won $4,800.

"People are flat p— off about it. A lot of guys lost a lot of money," Hunter said.

Kevin Gessino-Kraft had planned to play in the tour and sent in $6,000 — about half the entry fee — in December to reserve a spot. He decided to go on the National Golf Association Hooters Tour instead but never got his money back.

"Thank God, he didn’t (go on the Hawaii tour) because we’d be out $6,000 more and he’d be stuck in Hawaii with probably no money to get home," said Kevin’s wife, Heather, when reached at their home in Cleveland.

Advertiser sports editor Curtis Murayama contributed to this report.

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