Fund-raiser helps local golfer with a ‘golden opportunity’
by Dennis Fujimoto – The Garden Island
WAILUA — The guest of honor was nowhere to be found when more than 150 golfers showed up Sunday at the Wailua Golf Course.
Casey Watabu was competing on O‘ahu at the 2007 Hawai‘i State Amateur Stroke Play Championship, but his parents, Victor and Iris Watabu, were on hand to greet and chat with the golfers.
“He’s in fourth place after his Saturday round,” said Gail Oride, one of the volunteers at the public links fund-raising golf tournament. “If he shoots really well, he might move to first place.”
But Watabu, despite picking up eight strokes on the final round, finished in third place, seven strokes off the pace.
Watabu had fired a 72-75-147 on Saturday and finished the final round 69-70-139 for a 286 total. Honolulu’s Chan Kim took first place in that tournament (72-67-70-70-279).
The golfers who showed up when the skies were still dark were more concerned about why they were at the golf course.
“It’s a big thing for Casey to be able to play in the Masters,” one golfer said. “He’s a Kaua‘i boy so gotta support, yeah.”
The fund-raising tournament for the public links program will have part of its proceeds help Watabu get to the Masters tournament, a berth he secured when he captured the 2006 U.S. Amateur Public Links tournament in Bremerton, Washington in March, 2006. Traditionally, the winner of the U.S. Amateur Public Links receives an invitation to play in the Masters.
“This is a golden opportunity for him,” another golfer said. “We support him all the way.”
Oride said turnout for this fundraiser exceeded organizer Art Fujita’s expectations.
“Originally, he was thinking maybe 108 golfers,” Oride said. “But there are at least 153 golfers here today.”
In addition to helping support the 22-year-old golfer from Kapa‘a get to Augusta, Georgia, the golfers got some premiums in return.
Oride said through the help of Mary Bea Porter King, golfers were treated to metal or plastic ball markers bearing the Augusta logo. Additionally, there were golf tees and a special scorecard and pencils from Augusta for all players.
Among the field were a visiting couple whom, according to Oride, had seen the promotional sign at the golf course and signed up.
“They get all the goodies from Augusta and play with all the local golfers,” Oride said. “And, after everything is done, they get to join us for lunch.”
Once the round was done, everyone got to enjoy lunch and fellowship at the Wailua Houselots Park where tournament results were announced.
Michael Oride captured the Low Gross honors with a 65.
Pat Ahana (59) was first in the Low Net list followed by Kei Yamane (63), Mark Nakama (63), Davis Oshiro (63) and Gordon Yee (63).
Ties for the Low Net were determined by the front-nine net scores.
Big Save gift certificates were presented to these winners.
Penny Balocan and Chris Fujikado won Sun Solutions window tinting certificates for being Closest to the Hole on No. 17.