The Hawaiian Girls Golf Club continues its missions to celebrate golf and island traditions
Life is very different from what it was on July 4, 1952, when the Hawaiian Girls Golf Club held its first tournament.
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Life is very different from what it was on July 4, 1952, when the Hawaiian Girls Golf Club held its first tournament. It teed off at Mid-Pacific Country Club, where all 12 charter members of the Ekahi (one) group belonged.
The Hawaiian Girls Golf Club is not so different.
Its initial purpose was to promote golf participation for women of Hawaiian ancestry, “exemplify a spirit of true fellowship and sportsmanship” and perpetuate Hawaiian culture.
Those ideals are still absolutely the focus, from singing the Doxology in Hawaiian before heading out to the tee to “dinging” members for being late, not wearing their red shirt and forgetting the flower in their hair.
The mission can be felt in the intense-yet-warmhearted competitiveness on the course and the vast calculations that consume everyone early on at the 19th hole.
They are apparent at the early morning opening of the annual state tournament, which will celebrate its 36th year in April at Turtle Bay, and the very early morning endings of seemingly all celebrations.
“The party is as competitive as the golf,” says Aurora Kaawa, president of HGGC Ekahi this year and Miss Hawaii 1971. “You have to entertain. The mission is to perpetuate the sport, but also our culture.”
The Hawaiian Girls’ founding was instigated by William “Hunchy” Kekoa, a member of the Hawaiian Men’s Club.
“They would let these 12 (charter member) women play with them,” says Loy McKeague, now in her 45th year of membership. “It got to the point where the men didn’t want the women to play with them so they figured why not have them form their own club.”
That was 1952 and now some social members are in their 90s. As any member will tell you, “you can be 90 years old and still be a girl.”
The first president was the late local golf legend — and life of the party — Cattie Ozawa. The first team captain was Hawaii Golf Hall of Famer Jackie Pung. All the charter members are now gone after “Auntie” Mickie (Cockett) Turner died around the same time as Pung in 2017.
Their first uniform was a red polo shirt donated by Primo Beer. Dues were $6 a year and tournaments cost a buck. So yeah, a few things are different.
But the club has always played the same format. Four teams, divided equally by handicap, play six matches a year in a points system created by Billie Beamer. Medal play is also involved and there are no gimmes. Don’t even think about it.
In 1973, the Island of Hawaii started its own offshoot of HGGC, behind Blossom Evans and Lillian Upchurch. Five years later, with Ekahi bursting at the seams, HGGC-Oahu-Elua (two) began, with members like Pua Furtado, Barbara Robello and Shirley Yong. There is also a Maui club that is not affiliated.
“Golf is a wonderful game …,” Yong says, “but mostly this is to get the Hawaiian ladies together so we can talk about our ways of life we all came from. I was born in 1930 and I’m able to share some of my life with my parents with the young golfers.
“It’s nice to talk and discuss our culture and find out who we are related to and how we are surviving in this world.”
All the clubs play the same format. Since team competition doesn’t allow for handicapping, all active members also belong to at least one other “mother” club — many to Olomana and Makalena Women’s.
Jan Hackbarth — yes, from the dancing (Alan) Hackbarth family — said Ekahi had 70 members when she joined in the 1990s, and needed 13 starting times. Now it’s down to five times with as many social members (age 80-plus) as active.
Still, even beyond the official celebrations any time the Hawaiian Girls get together is a reason for a party. Hula is usually involved.
“Sometimes we get home at 1 a.m.,” Hackbarth says. “Someone brings out an ukulele, then we go to someone’s house and ….”
The social members might not still golf, but their presence is treasured.
“It’s just a matter of respecting the older members because the history is vast,” says Ku‘ulei Ka’ae, enjoying her 30th year of Ekahi membership. “There is a lot to talk about.”
There is a lot of tradition. And a lot left to learn.