Some 38 years ago Gregory Meyer and Kevin Hayashi met on a Little League field in Hilo.
"Greg was a pitcher, he was awesome," Hayashi recalls. "He shut us down, smoked us."
The two have taken turns "smoking" folks on the golf course almost ever since. Tomorrow, both will be inducted into the Hawaii Golf Hall of Fame in the third annual Ho’olaule’a Awards, at Honolulu Country Club.
The night of celebration will honor those exceptional in their golf field in 2010. Meyer and Hayashi, two of the most thoughtful and popular pros here, have been exceptional for decades.
Since winning state high school and Manoa Cup championships, Meyer, who turns 50 this year, has spent much of his time in Japan. Following in David Ishii’s footsteps, Meyer has carved out a comfortable career and life in Japan, winning the 1993 Chiba Open and 2001 Korakuen Cup and stacking up 67 top-25 finishes on the Japan Golf Tour.
He complements it with an impressive list of 15 local wins and 10 Hawaiian Open starts on "vacation" at home. "Whenever he comes back he wins something," says Hayashi, who rates Meyer "definitely one of the greatest golfers in Hawaii" ever.
Hayashi, 48, has been winning nonstop the last half of his life. He captured the Rainbow Open at 24 and turned pro soon after, winning 46 titles since. He is the only player to three-peat in the state open and has won 33 Aloha Section PGA events.
He will accept his eighth section player of the year honor tomorrow night, and his first teacher of the year award.
This week, he is playing in his 10th Sony/Hawaiian Open. He made his first cut last year, but might have made his biggest impact in 2004, when he basically sacrificed himself to help 14-year-old Michelle Wie — his playing partner the first two days — manage the madness that threatened to overwhelm them that crazy week.
Wie spoke reverently of "Uncle Kevin" afterward and the title has stuck. It brings a smile, but is also a reminder of Hayashi’s innate kindness.
"You just need to look at his record over the years and his contributions to his community and junior golfers," Meyer says. "He’s always an inspiration. He gives respect to people. You talk to Kevin and you can look him straight in the eye. I’ve never heard anyone speak ill of Kevin except those people he’s beating that are waiting for him to retire. I don’t think it will be anytime soon."
Same for Meyer, who plans to join Ishii on Japan’s senior tour in October, but is not yet done with the regular tour. That silky-slow putting stroke is still remarkably effective.
"He is the greatest putter I ever saw," Hayashi says. "He has a slow backstroke and hits down on it real slow. It’s kinda like his personality, slow and laid back, with nerves of steel.
"On the golf course when he’s putting, that guy is lights out. I definitely would have won Mid-Pac (Open) if I putted like that."
That is the one major title that has eluded Hayashi here. Meyer envies his focus and consistency, and is still trying to find a way to emulate Hayashi’s no-fear swing that is without a wasted motion.
They can talk about it tomorrow with Ishii and Lance Suzuki and Allan Yamamoto and all the other Hall of Famers that were their role models.
"For me, this is an honor because it’s a who’s who of golf … ," Hayashi says. "These are guys I really, really look up to. Those are the guys I want to play like."
2011 Hall of Fame inductees
» Gregory Meyer
» Kevin Hayashi
Aloha Section PGA
» Professional of the year: Steve Murphy
» Teacher of the year: Kevin Hayashi
» Player of the year: Kevin Hayashi
» Senior player of the year: Lance Taketa
Hawaii State Women’s Golf Association
» Volunteer of the year: Sheila Kim
Hawaii State Junior Golf Association
» Players of the year 7-10: Malia Nam (Honolulu) and Kane Rogers (Honolulu); 11-12: Ji Hae Lee (Honolulu) and Taisei Negishi (Hilo); 13-14: Lisa Kang (Honolulu) and Jino Sohn (Honolulu); 15-18: Cassy Isagawa (Wailuku) and Alex Chiarella (Makawao).
» Hawaii State Golf Association Amateur of the year: Alika Bell
» Senior amateur of the year: Phil Anamizu
» Volunteer of the year: Gary Wild
» Participant of the year: Kelsey Wo
» Volunteer of the year: Chris Welch
Hawaii Golf Course Superintendents Association
» Superintendent of the year: Craig Trenholme (Kaanapali)
» Assistant superintendent of the year: Guillermo Ancheta (Manele Bay)
» Career achievement award: Howard Hamada (Pearl Country Club)
Hawaii Golf Representatives Association
» Representative of the year: Neal Takara (Titleist)