Shirai, Ishii, Yamamoto make Kaua‘i Golf Hall of Fame

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami, and The Kaua‘i County Council, representing the people of Kaua‘i, congratulate Kaua‘i golf Hall of Fame inductees Toyo Shirai, David Ishii, and Guy Yamamoto, Thursday. Shown are Arryl Kaneshiro, Sam Shirai, representing his father Toyo Shirai, Luke Evslin, Felicia Cowden, former mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr., Guy Yamamoto, Kipukai Kuali‘i, Billy DeCosta, Mason Chock, David Ishii, and Mayor Kawakami.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Kaua‘i Golf Association President Dick Ueoka listens as Hall of Famer David Ishii talks about Toyo Shirai and the Wailua Golf Course Thursday when Ishii, Shirai, and Guy Yamamoto were inducted into Kaua‘i’s golf Hall of Fame at the Mo‘ikeha Building, Lihu‘e Civic Center.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami presents congratulatory certificates to Sam Shirai, accepting for his father Toyo Shirai, David Ishii, and Guy Yamamoto Thursday when the three golfers were inducted into Kaua‘i’s Golf Hall of Fame at the Mo‘ikeha Building, Lihu‘e Civic Center.

LIHU‘E — The common thread among the three inductees to the Kaua‘i Golf Hall of Fame Thursday at the Mo‘ikeha Building, Lihu‘e Civic Center, was the Wailua Golf Course.

The late Toyo Shirai, David Ishii and Guy Yamamoto were presented by Kaua‘i Golf Association President Dick Ueoka and the body of the local golf association as members of the inaugural Kaua‘i Golf Hall of Fame before an audience that was restricted by the current COVID-19 health and safety guidelines.

“We had to do something,” said Ueoka. “This is something we should’ve done a long time ago. One of the items in the KGA constitution says ‘to promote, foster, and perpetuate the game of golf.’ We hope that the Hall of Fame serves to inspire future generations of golfers.”

Specially-designed plaques will hang on the walls of the Wailua Golf Course where all three inductees experienced play.

“Kaua‘i is very lucky to have had a teacher like Toyo Shirai,” Ishii said. “What he taught us when we were young in the game of golf continues today with instructors in golf passing along the same things he told us to do. Kaua‘i is lucky to have Wailua Golf Course — Toyo Shirai had a hand in developing the front nine — where we all played and gained and learned to be able to play in prestigious tournaments like the Masters.”

Ishii said he hopes more of the younger golfers get to play at the Wailua Golf Course.

“Wailua Golf Course is a real gem,” Yamamoto said. “I was fortunate to grow up playing at Wailua. Technology bombards the sport with ways to hit longer and improve the game of golf. But the course is still tough — the wind, weather — and playing Wailua makes a complete golfer. I’m proud to say I’m from Kaua‘i, and I played Wailua.”

Yamamoto was born and raised on Kaua‘i, being a member of the Kaua‘i High School golf team, and honed his golf game at the Wailua Golf Course under the tutelage of Shirai.

Yamamoto played in a number of USGA tournaments, and competed in the Japan Amateur Championship in 1989, 1991, and finishing second in 1996.

His greatest victory came in 1994 when he defeated more than 5,300 golfers to become the U.S. Amateur Public Links champion.

Ishii has been a role model for Hawai‘i golf for more than 30 years and won a number of state and collegiate titles.

His professional career took him to Japan where he was the first foreigner to win $8 million on the Japan Golf Tour. He also won the 1900 United Airlines Open in Honolulu, and participated in the Masters Tournament in Atlanta, Georgia.

Ishii’s advancement and promotion of the game of golf, and mission to educate the public on the benefits of the sport leaves a lasting impression on his legacy.

Shirai won the PGA of Hawai‘i match play championships in 1939 and qualified in several U.S. Open tournaments.

He was the dean of Kaua‘i Golf Professionals and was the head professional at the Wailua Golf Course from 1946 to 1978. He also taught the game of golf over multiple decades to many of Kaua‘i’s youth golf stars, including Ishii, Yamamoto, and more.

Shirai’s contribution and greatest gift to Kaua‘i is the front nine holes at the Wailua Golf Course. In 1962, Shirai designed Wailua’s second nine holes and reconstructed the course as a self-taught golf course architect.

The United States Golf Association has been so enamored with the Wailua Golf Course that it selected the course to be the site of three U.S. Men’s Amateur Public Links Championships, the most of any venue in the more than 78-year history of that national event.

Due to Shirai’s vision, the Wailua Golf Course has been rated several times as one of the country’s top 100 municipal golf courses.


Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, send us an email.