Mid-Pacific Open's tradition hard to beat
|||Nelson voted into World Hall of Fame|
|||Bodies announce rules changes, modifications|
|||Holes in one|
By Bill Kwon
By Bill Kwon
The Mid-Pac Open, as it is fondly called, might be the second major of the year for championship golfers locally, but when it comes to tradition, it's No. 1.
The longest continuous men's open golf tournament in Hawai'i — and the only 72-hole event — begins today at the Mid-Pacific Country Club in Lanikai.
The Mid-Pacific Open officially began in 1962 and has been played without interruption except for 1988 when the course underwent renovations.
It began when Masa Kaya, now 80, was still an amateur golfer. He was the low amateur when Paul Scodeller won the inaugural event 44 years ago.
Among the multiple champions over the years are Jerry Barber, who won the 1961 PGA Championship, and the who's who of local golf, including Allan Yamamoto, David Ishii, Larry Stubblefield, Greg Meyer and Regan Lee, the only three-peat winner (2002 to 2004).
We haven't overlooked Lance Suzuki, who deserves a separate mention for having won the Mid-Pac Open a remarkable eight times.
Suzuki is back teeing it up again along with defending champion John Lynch as 68 professionals gun for $12,500 — the biggest first-place purse in local golf.
"We want to make it the premier tournament for local pros," said tournament chairman Mike Kawaharada. "It's also a way to give something back to the local pros who have supported golf in Hawai'i so much over the years."
This year's top prize, a $4,000 increase from what Lynch won last year, and the eye-opening raise certainly caught the attention of Hawai'i's professional golfers.
Amateurs, including A- and B-flighters, will also be able to experience what the pros and championship golfers have to go through. They also will be playing the same course under the same conditions, teeing it up from the back tees as well.
Scoring figures to be difficult, according to Brandan Kop, who in 1995 was the last amateur to win the Mid-Pac Open.
"If conditions stay the same, 290 (2-over par) might win," said Kop, who got in a practice round last week.
Mid-Pac has some of the fastest greens in the state and the rough will be especially high after all of the recent rains.
Clearly, the tournament record of 17-under par 271, set by Ishii in 1986, looks untouchable.
It was so long ago that Ishii, who is playing in the Mid-Pac Open for the first time since 1990, was surprised when told he holds the 72-hole tournament record.
"Really? I don't remember. Seventeen under? That's pretty good," said Ishii, who also won in 1989, the year before he won the PGA Tour's United Airlines Hawaiian Open.
A Mid-Pac Open victory is the only thing missing from the resume of Kevin Hayashi, one of Hawai'i's top professionals.
Hayashi finished runner-up several times, including last year by one stroke.
"I haven't played that well in that tournament. And other times, others have played well. It's one I'd really like to win because it's the only 72-hole tournament we have," said Hayashi, a teaching pro at the Mauna Kea Resort.
We asked some of the pros which were their favorite and least favorite holes at Mid-Pac.
Interestingly, Kop and Lee — grandsons of the legendary Guinea Kop who won the Campos Trophy, a precursor of the the Mid-Pac Open, five times — had different views of the signature par-5 fifth hole with an island green.
"I can't base it on if I had any success there, but the fifth hole is the one I look forward to playing the most," Lee said. "You're given a choice after your drive of going for it (in two) or laying up. You can go for eagle or bogey."
Kop pleads the fifth and doesn't look forward to playing the 525-yard hole at all.
"I have a hard time making birdie because if you lay up, it's hard to stop the ball on the green. You can make bogey or double-bogey easy," he said.
"It's a challenging, fun hole to play," Hayashi said. "It's exciting to play that kind of a hole because of the risk-reward."
Their least favorite hole?
The pros agree that the 431-yard par-4 eighth into the prevailing wind is the most difficult. But they expect it to be hard, so No. 8, surprisingly, isn't the least favorite.
Instead, it's No. 17, a short 336-yard par-4 with a tight fairway and winds gusting to the OB on the right. Most of the players punch a 3-iron, try to hit the green, two-putt and get out of there without making a bogey.
"It's my least favorite hole," Lee said.
"Not that easy, but just a boring hole," Hayashi said.
Ishii lists 17 as well as the dog-leg right, uphill par-4 15th as his two least favorite holes.
One thing is for sure, all of the players had better birdie Mid-Pac's three vulnerable par-4 holes — 1, 2 and 10 — or else they are definitely going to post rounds over par.