By: Ann Miller – StarAdvertiser (Photo Courtesy of HSWGA)
Their memories might be fading, but apparently Hawaii’s more “sophisticated” golfers are not about to be forgotten in the flood of junior prodigies.
Last week, 67-year-old Dave Eichelberger shot his age to win the Aloha Section PGA Professional Championship. A day earlier, nine 80-somethings put their spectacular stamp on the Hawaii State Women’s Golf Association Senior Championship, again. That total was down one from last year.
Mira Han, probably feeling pretty darn young at 53, won the overall championship by firing a 2-over-par 75 at Waikele Golf Club. But the “kids” have been in the background the past few senior events as a glut of remarkably talented and well-preserved 80-year-olds have taken over.
Flo Miyasaki, 87, won this year’s Super Senior low-gross title by shooting 94.
Has she ever shot her age?
“No, I haven’t shot 87,” Miyasaki said. “But I did shoot 85, 86 and 88 this year.”
No shame in that.
Miyasaki can’t remember how many times she has won her flight in the senior event and it has nothing to do with her memory, only that she has won it so many times.
She and her husband took the game up in their 40s at the urging of his boss and her brother. Without hesitation, she swears she is the best golfer in the house.
Miyasaki was not the oldest at Waikele. That honor went to Elaine Lee, who had her by a month and took third low net in the flight, which included golfers age 76 and up.
At the other end of the senior spectrum, Keiki-Dawn Izumi, 57, finished a shot behind Han playing in the Youngsters (50-60) flight for the third time. She returned to the game four months ago after taking a few years off to start a new business and care for her parents.
Izumi started golfing 27 years ago with her mother, Florence, who died in 2003 at age 83. Florence was a vital part of Hawaii’s golf history, with a special passion for the Jennie K. Invitational at her home Mid-Pacific Country Club.
“I love the old ladies, the golden girls, because it’s my mom and her friends, that age group,” Keiki-Dawn said. “I like being with them, it’s comfortable, my calling. I like being in their arena. I’m glad they are the winners of that tournament.
“Just to be able to play at that age is great. They just wiggle and hit the ball.”
Izumi is good enough to golf with players from pretty much any generation. She reached four State Women’s Match Play finals and won the last, in 1991.
The focus of this golf rebirth was qualifying for the USGA Senior Women’s Amateur, which she did. She and Jade Merkle, whose daughter Kristina won her fourth Jennie K. this year, will represent Hawaii starting Oct. 14 in Florida.
To prepare, Izumi played the state stroke and match play championships.
“I got annihilated by the young ones,” she said. “Not to mention playing so many days in row. I wasn’t used to that.”
Her goal in Florida is to make the cut and do some research so she can knowledgeably replace her 14-year-old equipment. The “young ones” have all the latest, greatest sticks, but Izumi is still learning about it all.
She also is trying to find a balance between the joy of golden girls golf and the sharp focus juniors are learning.
“To the seniors, for them it’s enjoyable. I see joy in their eyes because it’s rewarding for them to be out there amongst friends,” Izumi says. “For the young girls it’s total competition. I don’t blame them. I was there once. But I don’t see fun in their eyes.
“Kristina Merkle did have fun after the second or third time she won Jennie K., but these young kids … I don’t know if it’s fun sometimes.”
It is inspiring, Izumi admits. So are the seniors, in so many ways.