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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Legion of foreign golfers gets set for Waialae

By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer

 •  WHAT: Full-field PGA Tour event

WHERE: Waialae Country Club (35-35i70, 7,060 yards)

WHEN: Thursday through Sunday; 7 a.m. Thursday and Friday, 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday

PURSE: $4.5 million ($810,000 first prize)

DEFENDING CHAMPION: Jerry Kelly (14-under 266)

ADMISSION: Free Monday and Tuesday, $15 Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Children 12-under free with adult ticket holder. Season Badge is $50 for entire week.

INFORMATION: 523-7888 or sonyopeninhawaii.com


Sony Open attendance

1999: 23,931
2000: 32,810
2001: 34,663
2002: 45,218

Twenty years ago yesterday, Isao Aoki's "miracle eagle" won the 1983 Hawaiian Open to became the first Japanese to win on the PGA Tour.

This year, a record 10 players from Japan are in the annual PGA event at Waialae Counry Club, now called the Sony Open in Hawai'i.

That's just the start of an international invasion.

Of the PGA Tour's 19 Australian members, 13 will play at Waialae Country Club. That includes Robert Allenby, Craig Parry and Stuart Appleby, all ranked among the top 32 in the world.

South Africans Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Brenden Pappas and Rory Sabbatini are playing; Els and Goosen have both won the U.S. Open and are in the top five in the World Golf Ranking. Swedes Per-Ulrik Johansson, Richard Johnson and Jesper Parnevik are also playing.

Players from 15 foreign countries will be in the Sony, which might be a good sign. More than half the golfers in the World Ranking Top 25 are not from the United States. But, Americans have won the first four Sony Opens. Jeff Sluman (1999), Paul Azinger (2000), Brad Faxon (2001) and Jerry Kelly (2002) are all back this year.

Shigeki Maruyama, who finished with $2.2 million on the PGA Tour last season, will head the group of Japan professionals.

Maruyama, 33, won the Byron Nelson Classic last year and the Milwaukee Open in 2001 during his two years on the PGA Tour. His best Sony Open in Hawai'i finish was a tie for ninth in 2000.

Hidemichi Tanaka, 31, will be making his third appearance. He aced the par-3 7th hole at Waialae Country Club during last year's tournament. He finished in 92nd place on the PGA Tour with $760,000 in earnings. Tanaka's best finish was a tie for fourth at the Disney Golf Classic.

Kaname Yokoo, 30, will be playing in the Sony for the fifth year, this time on a sponsor's exemption. Yokoo finished 130th on the PGA money list last year and has limited playing status for this season. His highest finish last season was a tie for second at the Phoenix Open.

Yusaku Miyazato and Taichiro Kiyota, both 22-year-old amateurs from Tokyo, will make their pro debuts at the Sony. Miyazato, a Tohoku Fukushi University senior, was the champion of the Japan Amateur Tournament in 2001. He will be playing on the Japan Golf Tour Organization this year. Kiyota won the Kanto Student Championship in 2002, and played but failed to make the cut in the U.S. Open (tied for 86th).

Yasuhara Imano and Kenichi Kuboya each won two tournaments on the Japan tour.

Kuboya and Akio Sadakata earned their PGA Tour cards by finishing in the top 35 at the PGA Tour Qualifying School tounament last month.

Sadakata will be playing in his first U.S. PGA Tour event at the Sony Open. He finished tied for fifth at the Q-School tournament.

Also in the field are Katsunori Kuwabara, a 10-year pro on the Japan tour and Tomohiro Kondo, who has six top-10 finishes in two years on the Japan tour.

Sony benefits local charities

In 1938, the Palm Beach Invitational donated $10,000 to local charities. The PGA Tour has continued the practice since, with proceeds from tournaments benefitting local charities and people in the communities.

Last year, the three tours — PGA, Champions (formerly Seniors) and Nationwide (formerly Buy.com) —contributed nearly $70 million to charity.

Friends of Hawai'i Charities, the fundraising arm of the Sony Open in Hawai'i, has distributed approximately $2 million to groups that support women and children in its first four years of existence.

The funds it raises are matched by The Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation. The goal of Friends of Hawai'i Charities is to donate $1 million annually.

Wilson among PGA Tour rookies

Last year, 22 of the 23 rookies played in the Sony Open, which is the first full-field event of the year. The exception was Ty Tryon, who would have needed a sponsor's exemption because he was not 18.

Tryon, now 18, is playing this year on a sponsor's exemption because his ranking is not high enough to get into the field. He will enjoy "semi-rookie" status and be joined by as many as 26 of the 29 true rookies in the Class of 2003.

That group includes Kane'ohe's Dean Wilson, who earned his PGA card last fall at the qualifying tournament. Wilson tied for 23rd at the Sony last year after Monday qualifying. He won six events on the Japan Golf Tour the past three years, finishing second on the money list in 2001.

Twenty players earned cards through the Qualifying School this year. Another nine rookies came in as Nationwide Tour (formerly Buy.com Tour) graduates.

Sony pin flag giveaway Friday

Sony Card Pin Flags will be given to the first 3,000 spectators at the Sony Open in Hawai'i on Friday at the Waialae Country Club.

The nylon flags are 18 inches by 14 inches, and feature Sony Open and other company logos, and can be used to collect autographs.

Some of the flags will already be autographed by PGA professionals, according to tournament organizers.

Hilton provides ticket giveaways

Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa will be giving away 100 tickets to the Sony Open in Hawai'i each day during contests held this week.

The giveaway contests include:

  • Sandtrap shots. 9-11 a.m. each day on the beach of Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon. Chip-shot a golf ball from the sand onto the green. Get a shot in the hole and win a pair of tickets, good for admission on any day. Twenty-five pairs of tickets will be awarded each day, as well as other prizes.
  • Putting. 3-5 p.m. each day in Tapa Concourse. Sink the putt and win a pair of tickets, good for admission on any day. Twenty-five pairs of tickets will be awarded each day, as well as other prizes.

Guest appearances include:

  • Autographs. PGA pro Dave Stockton Jr. will sign autographs from 4-5 p.m. today at the Tapa Bar.
  • Waikoloa pros. Dave Pritchett, director of golf at Waikoloa Beach Resort, and Neil Ozaki, assistant pro, will offer demonstrations and tips to the public from 11 a.m. to noon tomorrow (Wednesday).

Waialae course a rare tradition

Waialae Country Club is in good, old company.

Of the current PGA Tour events that go back to the 1960s, only the Sony Open/Hawaiian Open, Masters (Augusta National), Ford Championship (Doral), Heritage (Harbour Town), Bank of America Colonial (Colonial) and Buick Classic (Westchester) have been played at the same course since their inception.