Golf has always been the center of family reunions for the Oki and Hironaga cousins.
It’ll be a Waiakea reunion for Kailey Oki, who signed last week with UH-Hilo, reconnecting her with Tori Hironaga, Kaelyn Uchida and Tia Kualii.
It’ll be a brief stop for Oki’s cousin, Aidan Oki, who’ll head back to Puget Sound in January.
Hironaga is back home after a year at Northern Arizona, where she didn’t golf.
She can keep close tabs on her cousin, Ethan Hironaga, a 2020 Hilo grad who signed with UHH.
Kailey Oki, a Waiakea senior, is happy to stay at home.
“It’s great, and I’m really excited,” she said. “I want to go into education, and UHH has a great program. I also wanted to build relationships with the community.
“I know some of the girls on the team. It’s an easier transition if I went to the mainland. My teammates have been supportive and happy.”
Kailey will major in psychology with an eye toward becoming a teacher or counselor. As an added bonus, psychology should help her golf game.
“Oh definitely, golf is a mental game,” she said.
She pointed to her good-luck cousin caddie as a memorable moment.
“He caddied for me for the USGA qualifier in 2017. It was great,” she said. “We both just had a good time on the course. We also used to travel a lot together for interisland for HSJGA tournaments.”
Aidan remembers that tournament well.
“That was one of my most memorable experiences,” he said. “It was one of the bigger tourneys. I could really tell she was pressured. She had some bad shots and lucky shots. But we tried to keep it light, and I tried to keep her head cool.
“She ended up in second place. That was one of my most memorable shared golf experiences.”
They both share the same swing coach in Troy Tamiya, the son of UHH men’s coach Earl Tamiya.
Aidan has seen the hard work Kailey has put into her game.
“When she first started, her short game was her weakest point,” he said. “Now, it one of her more comfortable areas.”
Aiden, a 2020 Waiakea graduate, found a fit at the Division III school in Tacoma, Wash.
“Last year, I went up on a campus tour,” he said. “One thing that attracted me was the weather. It fluctuates a lot more. In fall, you can see all the colors of autumn with the trees changing color. I’ve been to Florida and New York, the bigger cities, but Tacoma was one of my favorites places so far.”
His parents are Lane and Michele Oki. Kailey’s parents are Doug and Pam Oki. The first cousins are related through the paternal side.
Tori Hironaga, a 2019 Waiakea graduate, spent a year in Flagstaff, Ariz, where the weather, contrary to popular belief, was not blazing hot.
“It’s a small town and very cold. It was snowing almost all the time,” she said. “I had a good time there. Flagstaff is more up in the mountains, 7,000 feet of elevation. The air is very thin. It’s very different from what everybody knows in Phoenix, where it’s 100 degrees.”
It was a double bonus for her to come back home, avoid the pandemic and be surrounded by family and good food.
“One of the reasons I came back was the coronavirus happening,” she said. “It’s nice to see family. I missed them very much, and I missed life at home, eating good food.”
Hironaga is majoring in mathematics. Her parents are Jeff and Trini Hironaga. Ethan’s parents are Dexter and Kristi Hironaga. The first cousins are related through the paternal side.
Tori’s game has been sidelined for a long time. Her last tournament was the HHSAA state tournament as a senior.
“It’s definitely rusty. Taking a year off makes your rust,” she said. “But I do better when I take breaks. My swing is still there. It’s muscle memory. It’s putting in practice and being a consistent thing.”
One reason Waiakea is the five-time BIIF champion is that the players always pushed each other.
“We wanted to have fun, but because the girls were so good we pushed each other and inspired each other,” she said. “Not that UHH didn’t have that, but I’m hoping for that same dynamic for the others to push me to do better.”
Unlike the other cousins, Tori Hironaga took up air riflery. She finished 33rd at states as a senior.
She made sure her time was well spent.
“The thing I remember from air riflery is sportsmanship and good team bonding,” she said. “That’s something I won’t forget.”
Ethan Hironaga’s major is accounting.
He doesn’t have any strong memories of playing with Tori but is glad a lot of familiar faces will be at UHH.
“I’m super happy. Coach Earl gave me a great opportunity to play for them,” he said. “Tori and I didn’t play golf that much together. I used to play a lot with Aidan.
“It’s good that they’re all together again.”