Before Michelle, there was Jackie, 71
|||Stubblefield revived '100 Holes of Golf'|
By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Ann Miller
Long before we were blessed by this generation of precocious players, "Hawai'i's Teen Queen of Golf" captured our imagination in the 1950s and never really let go.
Jacqueline (Jackie) Puamohala Yates Holt, who dominated women's golf here and won the 1955 intercollegiate championship, died April 17 at Kalapala Ranch on the Big Island. Holt, who had been suffering from Alzheimer's, was 71.
The youngest of 14 children started in golf at the age of 10 at the urging of her father, Julian Yates, a territorial senator. She learned the finer points of the game from golf legends Guinea Kop and Jimmy Ukauka.
Her father was persistent and demanding, following his small daughter around the course with a notebook. If she hit a bad shot, they would head to the driving range after the round to replay it 100 times. When she played poorly the day of her prom, her father made her call her date and tell him she could no longer go.
Jackie still loved it, happy to practice and happier still to play.
"Certainly my life has been enriched by this game," Holt said in 1994, when she joined Kop and Ukauka in the Hawai'i Golf Hall of Fame. "My father knew golf and the people I met through golf would make my life a happy one. How right he was."
The Punahou graduate won her first tournament at 11 and kept on winning here and on the Mainland for as long as she played, and then again when she returned to the game and Hawai'i in 1981, barely missing a beat — or a putt.
Holt won the second, fourth and fifth Jennie K. Wilson Invitationals in the early '50s and held the title of youngest champion until 11-year-old Michelle Wie took it away in 2001. She also won three Moanalua Invitationals, the first in 1952 and the second 30 years later.
She won the Territorial Girls Championship, California Women's Midsummer Tournament and Northern California Junior Championship, at Pebble Beach. She played in the 1955 U.S. Women's Open after capturing the Women's Intercollegiate Championship as a sophomore at University of Redlands.
She met her husband, Denny Holt, in college and they stayed in California more than 20 years, Jackie working as a teacher and counselor in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Her Mainland colleagues didn't even know she played golf, let alone was inducted into the Redlands Hall of Fame in 1958, but few have been as accomplished.
Holt was a small, gracious, soft-spoken woman who was a lifetime member at Volcano Golf Course and happy to play with anyone. Her golf game was bigger than life, from her classic swing to spectacular short game.
One story Holt did enjoy telling was about a teenage summer, when she traveled from the West Coast to the East playing tournaments. She felt someone watching her as she practiced putting at one of the venues.
When she was done, the man told the child, "I'll give you a hundred dollars, if you show me how to putt like you do." Holt was too shy to take his money, but later asked an attendant who he was. "You don't know who that is?" the attendant said incredulously. "That's Sam Snead."
Retired judge Jim Burns grew up playing golf with Holt at Mid-Pacific Country Club. Often he and Freddie Nahale would take on Holt and Gerald Goring. All were accomplished players and gender equity prevailed; no strokes were given. Their parents bet on the outcome.
"It was a helluva challenge," Burns recalled. "We had some great matches. ... Childhood days she was the best. She really played hard and loved challenges. And she was 'no sked' (scared). She played the men's tees, none of those red tees."
Holt never grumbled on the course or took her game off it. She had a kind, calming personality that made her easy to talk to and even easier to golf with. She was also a devoted friend. When Burns was speared in Lanikai at age 15, Holt came down from her house to sit with him until the ambulance came over the Pali.
"She was a really good friend and I admired her so much," Burns said. "Teenage years she was the best wahine golfer I knew. I have very fond memories of Jackie and her golf game. I always assumed she would go on to greater things."
Services are Tuesday at Dodo's Mortuary in Hilo. Visitation is 11 a.m. to noon, with a celebration of life noon to 1 p.m. Aloha attire is requested.
Holt is survived by husband, Dennis (Denny) of Kea'au; son, James (Kimo) Holt (Carmen) of West Hills, Calif.; grandson, Taylor Reid Holt; brother, James Raymond Yates (Umi) of Kapolei; Uncle Stanley and Aunty Gen Bertelmann of Honolulu; and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.
Reach Ann Miller at email@example.com.