Tour players from different countries, Hawaii Golf Hall of Famers and a handful of women will be in the 33rd annual Hawaii Pearl Open. The tournament tees off Feb. 11 at Pearl Country Club with Akinori Tani defending his championship.
Tani, a Japan Golf Tour Organization pro from Hyogo, Japan, beat an international field last year — on the same weekend he got married. He eagled the 17th hole to overtake Hawaii pro Nick Mason in the final round. Tani went on to finish 70th on the JGTO money list with two top-20 finishes.
About half the players this year come from Japan, including Han Lee, Shinichi Yokota and Toshinori Muto. All have finished in the top 20 on the JGTO money list in the past two years.
The field also includes former Pearl champions David Ishii, Gregory Meyer, Kevin Hayashi and Lance Suzuki, who are all in the Hawaii Golf Hall of Fame. Ishii, who won 14 times on the Japan tour, is a six-time champ at Pearl, where he is director of golf. Meyer, who plays in Japan now, has won it four times.
Hawaii’s Dave Eichelberger, the 1999 U.S. Senior Open champion, also is entered, along with Hawaii juniors Rudy Cabalar and Lorens Chan and 16-year-old Japan amateur Masamichi Ito.
Others pros include Mason, Sam Cyr, John Ellis, Gipper and Tony Finau, Jarett Hamamoto, Dick Mast, Jessie Mueller, Kiyoshi Murota and Casey Nakama. Among the amateurs are Nick Taylor, who won last year’s Ben Hogan Award — given to the top collegiate golfer — and was low amateur at the 2009 U.S. Open.
There are at least four women in the field, which could change after Tuesday’s qualifier. Hawaii pros Ayaka Kaneko and Mari Chun are playing, along with Japan LPGA player Kaori Ohe and Japan amateur Yurika Ishida.
Punahou seventh-grader Allisen Corpuz, University High senior Alice Kim and Moanalua sophomore Eimi Koga are among about 100 trying to qualify. Koga caddied for Tani last year and Corpuz became Pearl’s youngest qualifier, at age 11.
PGA Tour winner Parker McLachlin also has entered, but is waiting to hear if he will get an exemption into next week’s AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am before coming home.