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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 2, 2002

Ala Wai concessionaire lives on in clubhouse art

 •  Holes in one
 •  Take your licks with new golf ball
 •  Golf Notices

By Bill Kwon

Considering that she won the bid to operate the food concession at the Ala Wai Golf Course for the next five years, Peace Wong didn't think that the city would mind if she spruced up the clubhouse restaurant by commissioning Star-Bulletin cartoonist Corky Trinidad to paint two wall murals.

Peace Wong, left, and her son, Michael, pose in front of a mural at the Ala Wai Golf Course that honors her late husband, Kelvin.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

Family and friends attended the unveiling Monday. One of the murals depicts her late husband, Kelvin Wong, founder of Tasty Foods Co., teeing off at Ala Wai's first hole in a foursome, including singer Jimmy Borges, Ben Wood and yours truly. We were among Kelvin's many golfing buddies.

The other mural on the back wall shows Peace doing a jig on the 18th green.

"It's the biggest cartoon I've ever done," said Trinidad about both murals. The one featuring Kelvin measures 17 feet by 15 feet, the one of Peace is 15x15.

Trinidad spent the past two weeks working in the evenings when no one was around, to have a surprise showing.

Peace commissioned the works as a tribute to her husband, who died Oct. 22, 2000, at the age of 68. He loved the Ala Wai course and was a fixture there, not only playing golf but operating its concession dating back to the days of the old clubhouse.

After his death, Peace was not planning on bidding again for the concession rights. But at the urging of her two sons, Michael and Ronald, and daughter Brenda Yim who keeps the books, she decided to forge ahead and got a five-year contract that began in December.

With five more years, she thought of the idea of honoring her husband with the murals.

"I don't think there will be any complaints (from the city)," Peace said. "After five years, I'll paint over it if they don't like it."

She also has six-month extensions for the concessions at three other municipal courses — West Loch, Makalena and 'Ewa Villages — but isn't sure if she will bid for them again.

Navy-Marine history

This is the weekend in which the Navy-Marine Invitational would have been played, if the tournament hadn't been canceled for the third year in a row because of work at the popular military course. In 2000, an irrigation project resulted in the first interruption of the popular tournament since 1959. Last year, the event was shelved again because of the construction of a new $5 million clubhouse. This year, it is off because a new first tee and putting green are being built.

The tournament has been for amateur golfers only since the 1980s, but the Navy-Marine Open had been one of local golf's major 72-hole events beginning with its inaugural event in 1951. The first three winners were professionals — Barrett Melvin, Guinea Kop and Jimmy Ukauka — all members of the Hawai'i Golf Hall of Fame. Bob Tokigawa, golf superintendent at the Mid-Pacific Country Club, became its first amateur champion in 1954.

Other former champions included Ted Makalena, one of five players to win the event three times, Lance Suzuki, John Kalinka and amateurs Allan Yamamoto and Stan Souza.

"It's one of the top courses in Hawai'i, and everybody looks forward to playing it," said Yamamoto, who won back-to-back titles in 1972-73, both in playoffs. He holed a 9-iron for an eagle on the first playoff hole with three others in 1972.

The Navy made the tournament an all-amateur event from 1980 through 1983, before opening the tournament to the pros again in 1984.

After Suzuki won it back-to-back in 1984 and '85, it reverted to being strictly for amateurs.

Interestingly, Suzuki referred to the 1978 Navy-Marine Open during his induction into the Hawai'i Golf Hall of Fame.

It was the tournament Kalinka won for the third time with a clutch 5-foot putt that denied Suzuki a chance to be the event's only four-time winner.

Amateur event or otherwise, here's hoping the Navy-Marine tournament returns to the local golf calendar next year.

Bill Kwon can be reached at bkwon@aloha.net.