BY RON ELAND
North Hawaii News
It was a near-perfect day for golf.
Despite some gusty winds, the skies were blue, the temperature was mild and the Waikoloa Village Golf Club’s course was well manicured. But for those who played Saturday, it was much more than a way to win a prize or better their personal score. It was about helping others.
The Aloha For Japan Golf Tournament raised more than $10,000 which will go toward the ongoing relief effort following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. In all, nearly 80 men and women (who paid $100 each) hit the links Saturday.
“We thought we might get 40-50 golfers. We would have been happy with that but it just blossomed,” said organizer Jerry Carmack.
Wanting to help others is what brought many out.
“I felt really sorry for Japan and wanted to contribute,” said Phil Camp before playing hole No. 4.
Camp added that he plays Waikoloa about twice a month.
“It’s such a nice course but you always have to hope the wind is behind your back,” he said with a grin.
While the tournament was designed to raise money for the people of Japan, it was two of that country’s residents Carmack had in mind when he came up with the idea for the tournaments just 10 days earlier. For the past 15 years, Tetsuo and Reiko Endo have visited the Big Island every February and have stayed at a variety of condos in the Waikoloa area before buying a timeshare. As avid golfers, the couple have played many of the island’s courses and always enjoyed the Waikoloa Village Golf Club.
The Endos, who are from Sendai, returned home March 4 — just a week before the area was devastated by one of the largest quakes ever recorded. In a flier promoting the tournament, it states that, “The Endos have not been heard from since the disaster.” But since then, Carmack — who has been friends with the Endos for more than a decade — said there’s good news. Between information he’s found on the Internet and other sources, he’s confident the Endos are “alive and well.” He said he’s being very optimistic about their safety but said until he hears directly from the couple or their family, he won’t be 100 percent certain.
“Needless to say, I was elated when I heard they were OK. They are very near and dear to me. I had assumed they were dead,” he said. “Watching the news, there as so much devastation to where they lived. I’ve never seen devastation like that and I served in Vietnam.”
The tournament was a joint venture between the golf club, the Waikoloa Village Association and Banjy’s Paradise Bar and Grill which provided the location and food for the luncheon following the tournament. In addition, dozens of area businesses donated prizes.
“The Endos would come out each year and play here at the course,” said Matt Leininger, director of golf. “They’re a very nice couple. For several days we didn’t know what was going on with them. So, we wanted to do something in their honor. Here in Hawaii there’s a lot of Japanese visitors as well as heritage so for many the tsunami really hit close to home.
“It’s encouraging to see how many people wanted to help. We had a ton of area businesses who donated prizes. Everyone we approached to help contributed.”
Leininger added that it normally takes about six weeks to put on a tournament that size. They did it in less than two.