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The Honolulu Advertiser

By Ferd Lewis

Posted on: Sunday, January 17, 2010

Don't shed a tear for classy guy

 • Palmer, Allenby in lead

Kevin Hayashi was at the 17th hole and staring at the likelihood of a fourth bogey in six holes when a youngster in the crowd began to cry.

"I feel the same way," Hayashi replied in the direction of the wailing.

Yes, there were moments that undoubtedly pained him in a 5-over-par 75 round yesterday but for Hayashi the triumph was in being front and center at the Sony Open in Hawai'i on a weekend, even if only for a day thanks to the overall 216.

It took the Hilo Municipal course pro nine tries in the Sony and its predecessor, the Hawaiian Open, and then an anxious 5-hour wait for the news Friday to reach the play-for-pay rounds at Waialae Country Club. And though he might have imagined a better reward for his persistence, Hayashi was determined to drink it all in sweet and bitter gulps alike.

At an age (47) that made Hayashi the fifth-oldest in the 144-man field, there are no assurances he will make another Sony field much less compete on a weekend again. Which is, perhaps, why hands on hips after a disappointing shot, he gazed appreciatively at the gallery and soaked in the atmosphere. Why, too, he often walked to the rope line to shake hands with long-time friends and accept congratulations from old opponents.

While the fairways eluded his drive on all but one hole, the admiration for his being here at all did not. A dozen of his junior golf students from the Big Island walked with him. So, too, did former students from his Pearl Country Club days on O'ahu. Exhortations to "hang in there Hilo boy" came in the wake of narrow misses.

But, then, Hayashi is held in high esteem in the golf community for much more than his six Aloha PGA Section top player awards. For all the drive and competitiveness that have gotten him here, he is defined by the sportsmanship and graciousness that accompany it.

Six years ago, he was bulldozed by the presence of his assigned first-round playing partner, then-14-year-old Michelle Wie. Yet he never tired of answering questions about her or extending encouragement. He never had that "hey, what about me?" irritated look of some pros.

When Wie outshot him and pranksters later had a waitress deliver a pie with the message "Michelle wanted me to tell 'Uncle Kevin thank you for letting me beat you' " he took what became known as "the humble pie" with a smile.

When Hayashi, who had sustained one bogey in 32 previous holes, went through a jag of them at holes Nos. 12, 13, 15 and 17 yesterday he knew how the crying child felt, all right.

But even then he had to smile about where he was.