After a three-year hiatus for an end-to-end renovation, Hilo Municipal Golf Course is feeling new life and will once again host the Big Island Invitational from March 9-11, but this will not be an attempt to recapture the past for club pro and co-director Kevin Hayashi.
“We’re turning the page to a new future, that’s how I see it,” Hayashi said Tuesday. “We have a fairly small golf community here in terms of numbers, and we really want to showcase what we have.
“Those local golfers who haven’t been by to see what we’ve done will be surprised, in a good way, by what they see.”
Apart from the completely refurbished pro shop, parking lot, restaurant, the course will be a little different on greens 9, 17 and 18, and that’s only part of it.
Don’t let the name Big Island Invitational scare you off. Hayashi said “there was another tournament with name ‘Open’ in the title so the Hilo Open, as it was known had to change its name.”
In reality, nobody gets invited; it, in fact, is not an invitational tournament at all. It’s an open tournament, with golfers maintaining handicaps of 7 or lower accepted, and even that isn’t rock solid.
“If someone comes in and and has really been working on the game and is a little above a 7 handicap but feels this could really be a benefit, I’m not turning those people away,” Hayashi said. “We want big community involvement.”
To that end Hayashi and wife Teri, a teacher at Waiakea Elementary, have secured some new sponsors and taking on a new challenge.
“This game of golf has been so good to me and Teri, we talked about it and decided to put our focus for the future on giving back to the community,” Hayashi said. “Golf has helped me my whole life, it teaches some great values. It is the only game that asks you to call penalties on yourself, it has that personal responsibility that’s a big part of the sport.”
Upcoming plans for the Hayashi’s include the Big Island Keiki Invitational, which will also be open to all and the push will be directed at raising funds for junior golfers and other basic charities on the island. Hayashi said by his count, the Hilo golf tournaments have donated “over $70,000 to various charities” over the years.
How the competition unfolds has had a kind of boilerplate feel to it at this tournament in that Hawaii-born Nick Mason has won five of them, including the last one in 2014 before the renovations took place. In that tournament, Mason set a tournament record at 16-under that included a breathtaking 61.
Mason has also won three Hawaii State Open tournaments.
“I’ve talked to Nick,” Hayashi said, “and he definitely plans to be here, but it’s so early right now it’s hard to say who we might have, or how many might enter.
“I hope it’s a lot,” he said. “We really feel like showing the place off, the work that’s been done is impressive.”
The tournament will again be contested over 36 holes on the par 71 course with a Pro-Am on tap for March 9.
More information at bigislandinvitational.com.