The 1950 Hawaiian Open, held in conjunction with
the 28th Maui County Fair, contributed two
milestones to the history of golf on the Valley Island.
It started the ball rolling for the reorganization
of the Maui Golf Association.
That, in turn, led to the birth of what was then
called the Maui Invitational Open Golf Tournament in
October of 1952.
Dr. Harold Kushi, one of Maui’s staunchest golf supporters, was
president of the MGA.
That summer, he called a group of golf enthusiasts
together for a discussion on plans to start a
territory-wide tournament on Maui and make it an annual
Sitting in with
Kushi were Barrett Melvin, pro-manager of the Maui Country
Club; Bill Tokunaga, pro of the Waiehu Municipal Course;
Wilson Connon Jr., Akira Tanaka, George Ito, and Richard
Tokunaga and 87 amateurs—five from the neighbor
island—participated in the inaugural classic held on
Oct. 11-12, 1952 at the Maui Country Club.
By the second year, entries swelled to 156 amateurs
and 13 pros, who competed for a $1,000 purse.
Before long, the
Maui Open came to be known as “the biggest little
tournament in the Hawaiian Islands”.
GET BIG BOOST
In 1968, through
the generosity of Ben and Dorothy Kaneaiakala, the pro
purse was boosted to $2,500, which represented the largest
cash pot of any tournament in the State. With the
exception of the Hawaiian International Open.
The pro-am event that year offered an additional
$500 to the PGA golfers.
was played at the Maui Country Club, its birthplace, for
the first four years.
It extended out to the Waiehu Municipal Course in
1956, to the Royal Kaanapali Course in 1962, and to the
Wailea Course in 1972.
All play at the nine-hole Maui Country Club layout
was dropped after the 1967 tournament.
A pair of Maui
amateurs emerged tied for first place in the inaugural
Goo defeated James Tokunaga in the playoff.
Invading pros dominated the title for the next nine
years until 1962 when amateur Masa Kaya, a former Waiehu
caddy, broke the string.
CALLED HIM ‘MR. MAUI OPEN’
pro at the Kaneohe Klipper Course, held a monopoly on the
Maui Open crown for six consecutive years.
He was finally dethroned in 1959 by Guinea Kop, a
They finished in a tie after 72 holes and Kop
birdied the first hole of a sudden-death playoff to win.
regained the championship, placing second three times in
seven more tries after that, including another playoff
loss to Paul Scodeller in 1964.
Scodeller and Kaya repeated as champions, as did
Ted Makalena, Art Fujita, Morgan Fottrell, and Clyde
pro Fottrell, with his victories in 1970-71, became the
first since Ukauka to win back-to-back titles.
Kaya, then an
amateur, nosed out pro and defending champion Ted Makalena
by two strokes in 1962 to stop the professionals’
domination of the title.
Dave Bettencourt, another amateur, won in 1963 by
outlasting Scodeller by one stroke.
Greg Dikilato in
1965, Allan Yamamoto in 1974 and Frank Sanchez in 1977
were the others out of the amateur ranks to capture the
became the new attraction in 1977, hosting the first
54-hole tournament moved to Waiehu on the second day and
finished at Wailea that year.
In 1978, the
Aloha Section PGA was adamant in its demand for a minimum
purse of $3,000. Unwilling
to meet the demand, the MGA decided to go with an
all-amateur Maui Invitational Tournament, won by hometown
favorite Norman Yagi.
It happened in
1966 also when a similar request by the pros was turned
that 200 amateurs entered the tournament and Kaya emerged
king for the second time.
The Maui Open
was buried for six years from 1978 until 1984 when Charlie
Aruda, promotions director for the Maui Beach Hotel,
brought it back to life.
Amfac (Kaanapali) and Kapalua came through with
major support, as did Maui Toyota, Hawaiian Airlines and
Maui Beach Hotel.
The revival continues.