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Century club

    Larry Stubblefield has assumed the role of commissioner of Ka Lima O Maui’s annual 100 Holes of Golf.

At first glance, Ka Lima O Maui’s annual 100 Holes of Golf looks like a day-long cry for help from seven or eight foursomes who can’t cope with their golf addiction. In reality, the 12 hours in the Maui sun is Ka Lima’s $1 million bonus baby.

The overhead is so low — mostly because of Wailea Resort’s commitment for the past 30 years — and payback so high, 100 Holes has become the rehabilitation center’s primary fundraiser. There is now $50,000 built into Ka Lima’s budget annually from the event.

The 100 Holes traces its roots to a few guys, including former Big Island legislator Bob Herkes, playing the original Kauai Surf (now Kauai Lagoons) nine-hole course 11 times — plus one — in 1965. The next year they were joined by the late Charles "Stubby" Stubblefield, father of Hawaii Golf Hall of Famers Larry and Marga Stubblefield.

The event disappeared until 1978, but the Stubblefields did not. Larry got involved, and completely hooked. The Kailua insurance agent is now on Ka Lima’s Board of Directors, and serves as 100 Holes organizer/commissioner.

"The first time I played was 1980 (at Princeville)," he says. "I had just come home and my dad was playing with Jim Leahey, Aku and Bob Sevey. It rained most of the day, we finished in the dark around 8:30 and I had the time of my life."

The event moved to Wailea in 1981 and never left. It grew with the resort, first played on the Blue Course, while the Orange was being built. The resort consisted of two hotels and no condos.

Originally, golfers finished simply to win a bet with friends. But Maui News photographer Wayne Tanaka suggested raising money for a local charity early on and Ka Lima got involved soon after. Now golfers gather pledges, which are paid off if they finish. Participants are asked to raise at least $3,000 (some bring in $10,000) and be able to play 100 holes. There have been as many as 24 players, and 23 will tee off at Old Blue on May 28.

Every golfer has finished, every year, averaging about 2 hours a round. Four have done it without losing a golf ball and four more have had holes-in-one in the process, raising the question of if they had to go the whole hundred to make the ace acceptable to the USGA. There are no honors — players hit when ready — on the tee, from the fairway, rough and bushes (there is no out of bounds) and on the green, where "gimmes" get generous as the day wears on.

Wailea supplies hotel rooms for the participants and also used to comp the golf. Ka Lima volunteers greet participants when they tee off at dawn, just before they go searching in the dark for their opening drives. They keep them supplied with food, drink, sunblock, fresh carts and icy towels the rest of the day.

The towels were the brainchild of former InterContinental marketing manager Joyce Matsumoto; now the idea is used by resort courses around the world.

Chantal Ratte, Ka Lima’s executive director, has seen it but not quite believed it — until she looked over her budget. This one day of each year, with a couple dozen intrepid golfers and a few volunteers, has raised more than $1 million for her organization, which is Maui’s largest employer of persons with disabilities. It shows no sign of slowing, or running out of people crazy enough to appreciate shooting 450.

"I’d like to be selfish and say the mission of Ka Lima is why it has been so successful for so long, but I’m going to take a guess and say that’s not the main reason," Ratte says. "I’m sure that’s part of it, but I’d venture that it’s also the camaraderie of the golfers and, of course, Larry. He’s the big guy. He and John (Junk) put their heart and soul into it. And, of course, the support of the hotels."

Stubblefield has won tournaments across five decades and played on the PGA Tour three years after graduating from Ohio State. Not surprisingly, he holds the 100 Holes record of 21-under. Par, over 5 1⁄2 rounds plus a par-3 played in unison at the end, is 399. Scores are never published, but the award for the golfer who takes the most strokes is named after Sevey, who played 14 times.

Herkes finished it 28 times, as has Junk. Stubblefield has played every year since 1980, including one year with a walking cast. Son Shane has gone around twice and will play again this year, stretching his family’s 100 Hole legacy to three generations. If/when the "Stubbys" finish, the family will go over the 4,000-hole mark.

The number is mind-boggling, yet it pales in comparison to a resort’s 30-year commitment and Ka Lima’s $1 million-plus windfall.

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