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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, June 12, 2003

Aces prove to be elusive

 •  Sony Open charity sponsor doles out $800,000
 •  Holes in one
 •  Tour money leaders

By Bill Kwon
Special to The Advertiser

Difficult for some, easy for others

Four well-known Hawai'i golfers — Casey Nakama, Guy Yamamoto, Bev Kim and Del-Marc Fujita — haven't scored a hole in one despite playing golf for a combined average of 31 years.

Meanwhile, 13-year-old Michelle Wie, left, has six aces and Del-Marc's father, Art, has eight.
Casey Nakama, Del-Marc Fujita, Guy Yamamoto, Jay Hinazumi, Bev Kim and Norman Inouye. What do they have in common, besides being among the better golfers in Hawai'i?

They're still looking for their first hole in one.

While others have found golf's Holy Grail, the ultimate shot that finds the hole, Nakama and his companions don't have any.

They're still looking ... and waiting. While others get to talk about their aces — and do they have stories to tell — Nakama and Company can only shrug and smile. And wait their turn.

Inouye, who has been golfing for more than 40 years, recently stood over his ball hanging on the lip of the par-3 eighth hole at the Ala Wai Golf Course, hoping it would drop for his first hole in one. It didn't.

His playing partners that day, including Wendell Kop, commiserated with Inouye. "I wanted to blow it in for him," said the 68-year-old Kop, who waited nearly 50 years for his first ace, coincidentally at the same eighth hole at Ala Wai. He aced it again last month for his third hole in one.

"Well," Inouye said, "at least, I'm not the only one who still doesn't have a hole in one."

Inouye mentioned some of the others he knew who didn't — Nakama, a golf pro who conducts a clinic for junior golfers at Olomana; Fujita, a leading amateur player; and Yamamoto, two-time Manoa Cup champion and winner of the 1994 National Men's Public Links Championship.

That led me to ask around about others who have yet to record a hole in one.

That led to Hinazumi, a golf businessman who runs the Manoa Cup and other Hawai'i State Amateur Golf Association championships; and Kim, a recent Hawai'i Hall of Fame inductee and winner of women's tournaments in five different decades.

"Of course, I'm still waiting. Any day now," Kim said.

Al Souza, a 10-time Waialae Country Club champion and 1980 Manoa Cup winner, waited 45 years before acing Waialae's second hole in 1995. He got his second at the same hole five years later.

Mark Rolfing, the NBC television golf analyst from Kapalua, also had a long wait.

"I waited 36 years for my first hole in one," he said. He finally aced the Kapalua Bay's third hole in 1998.

Rolfing was also on hand when 15-time PGA Tour winner Fred Couples made his first hole in one at the Plantation Course's 11th hole in the 1993 Lincoln-Mercury Kapalua Invitational.

"He was thrilled, high-fiving his caddy and Bob Gilder, who was playing with him," Rolfing said. "When you're as great a player as he is and when you finally get one, you're shocked."

And you can get a little silly, too.

Years before his hole in one, Rolfing thought he aced the 12th hole at Pebble Beach when he saw his ball fly into the hole.

"I acted like a fool, running down the hill toward the green," he said. When he got there, the ball was sitting inches behind the flagstick, after going in and out of the hole.

"It's surprising that some players make a lot of holes in one and some don't," Rolfing said. "You would think good iron players would have a tendency to get them a lot more."

"I think it's mostly luck but better players have a better chance," said David Ishii, who has seven aces. However, he didn't get his first until he played collegiate golf at the University of Houston.

"It's like they say in golf," added Hall of Famer Art Fujita, Del-Marc's father, who has eight holes in one. "I'd rather be lucky than good."

The elder Fujita, who will be 70 in September, shouldn't be modest. He's not only lucky, he's good, having represented Hawai'i in eight or nine national public links tournaments.

The bragging rights belong to the old man, but Del-Marc wonders if God allows only a certain number of aces to each family and his father hogged them all.

But there's always a story behind a story in a hole in one.

For Ishii, director of golf at the Pearl Country Club and one of the all-time leading money winners on the Japanese tour, it can be an eerie experience. When he recorded his seventh career ace last year, it was in the same tournament (Bridgestone Open), at the same hole and in the same round. And it flew straight in the hole the same way it did 12 years earlier.

"It was kind of weird," he said.

For Nakama, who's 44, Yamamoto (41), Fujita (37) and Kim (57), any hole in one will do.

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

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