125 Years of Golf in America: Hawaii January 9, 2019

The USGA was founded on Dec. 22, 1894. With the 125th anniversary coming at the end of 2019, every week throughout the year we're highlighting how all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, make the game we all love a great one in the United States. 

Next Week: Puerto Rico   125 Years of American Golf: Home

Watch: A Chat with Mark Rolfing, a longtime resident of Hawaii who serves as an analyst for NBC/Golf Channel and is vice president of the Hawaii State Junior Golf Association 

 

Porter-King Put State Junior Program on National Map

By David Shefter, USGA

 

Mary Bea Porter-King has been the driving force behind the success of the Hawaii State Junior Golf Association. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

When Mary Bea Porter-King moved to the Hawaiian Islands 30 years ago, she was in the twilight stage of a long LPGA Tour career, and she wanted to give back to the game that had enriched her life.

Growing up in Costa Mesa, Calif., 50 miles south of Los Angeles, she had been mentored by 1941 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Betty Hicks at Los Coyotes Country Club. Porter-King’s passion for the game continued at Arizona State University, where she also played softball, basketball and volleyball, leading to a 25-year career on the LPGA Tour.

After marrying Hawaii native Charlie King – they met when he caddied for her at an LPGA Tour event on Kauai – Porter-King realized her playing days were coming to an end. Through the years, Hawaii had produced several accomplished players, including David Ishii, Lori Castillo, Dean Prince and the Barenaba brothers (Charles and Randyn), but she saw potential for further growth through junior golf. As she saw it, the state’s junior golf programs were exclusive and disjointed.

Porter-King reached out to the USGA – and specifically its Foundation, then located in Colorado Springs, Colo. – for a couple of grants to kickstart what would become the Hawaii State Junior Golf Association (HSJGA). Its mission was to incorporate the state’s junior golf programs under one umbrella while creating opportunities for all Hawaiian youths.

The HSJGA was founded in 1998, and thousands of Hawaiian youths have benefited from the generosity of Porter-King and other influential golf leaders in the 50th state. Porter-King, who served on the USGA Executive Committee from 2001-06, has been the organization’s president since 1999.

NBC/Golf Channel analyst Mark Rolfing, a longtime Hawaii resident, is the HSJGA vice president and another NBC/Golf Channel analyst, Dave Marr Jr., serves on the board.

Past USA Curtis Cup players Michelle Wie (left) and Mariel Galdiano are proud alums of the HSJGA. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

“I felt there was a need for our kids,” said Porter-King. “They needed to compete not just locally, but statewide and then nationally, if they were going to go on to get a college education. That was the driving force for me; to get an education through golf.”

Six core values are at the heart of the HSJGA:

  • Teach responsibility by developing qualities of leadership and integrity, while assisting juniors in becoming productive members of the adult community
  • Teach Rules, etiquette and fundamentals through instructional clinics
  • Provide golf at a minimal cost
  • Provide an environment that encourages and promotes good sportsmanship and friendship among junior golfers
  • Provide opportunities to travel and participate in state and national competitions
  • Provide college workshops to assist juniors with their preparation for higher education

The names of some of the beneficiaries are well known. Michelle Wie burst onto the scene as a 10-year-old at the 2000 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship (WAPL) and won it three years later. She later claimed the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club.

Hilo native Kimberly Kim won the 2006 U.S. Women’s Amateur at 14 years of age – she remains the youngest champion – and was a member of the 2008 USA Curtis Cup Team. That same year, Tadd Fujikawa became, at 15 years, 5 months, the youngest-ever U.S. Open qualifier (a feat that was surpassed six years later by Andy Zhang). Stephanie Kono and Mariel Galdiano, both UCLA All-Americans, and 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links champion Kyung Kim have represented the USA in the Curtis Cup Match. Casey Watabu also won the 2006 U.S. Amateur Public Links.

The program had such an effect on John Oda that the fledgling professional donated a portion of his winnings from his first PGA Tour event – an eighth-place showing in the 2017 OHL Mayakoba Classic in Mexico – to the HSJGA.

“That made me really happy,” said Porter-King.

Wie also continues to give back through a pair of fundraisers, including the Wie Love Ping Pong event that is held each spring during the LPGA Tour’s stop in Oahu. She also lends her name to the Michelle Wie Tournament of Champions, an annual junior tournament.

When Wie, who now resides in Florida, returns to the islands, “You would think the Pope just came,” said Porter-King. “[The kids] are so excited. She spends a lot of time with them… She’s done a lot to give back and I am so proud of her.”

But Porter-King is just as proud of the accomplishments of Miki Ueoka and Jon Khil. While these individuals don’t necessarily resonate on a national scale, they are the fabric of the HSJGA’s mission. Ueoka started in the program as a 7-year-old and showed tremendous promise. She also wanted to become a doctor. That desire was only fueled as a teenager when she lost her mother to breast cancer. Porter-King tirelessly worked with Ueoka to find the right school to match her academic and golf talent. She wound up earning a double degree at Santa Clara University, while also qualifying for the NCAA Division I Championship as an individual.

Two years ago, Porter-King was in attendance when Ueoka graduated from University of Hawaii Medical School. Today, she is doing her residency in Hawaii and still plays golf.

While not as talented as Ueoka on the golf course, Khil is currently enrolled in the Harvard University MBA program and focusing on a career in the golf business. Porter-King has introduced him to some of the game’s most influential leaders, including Ty Votaw, an executive with the PGA Tour who is also the vice president of the International Golf Federation.

“He wants to keep golf as part of his life because it has meant so much to him,” said Porter-King.

Porter-King has incorporated many of the lessons she learned as a child into the HSJGA. Each junior must pass a mandatory Rules test before they can hit the course. Before Porter-King could even read, Hicks required her to pass a written exam.

“I feel very strongly that they need to have an understanding of the Rules and the etiquette,” said Porter-King. “I hear from my [former students] all the time. They call me from college to talk about what they feel was a wrong ruling. I just refer them to the page in the [Rules of Golf]. Two years ago, one of my boys in Oregon used this [knowledge] and they ended up winning the event.”

Whether they become the next Michelle Wie or Miki Ueoka, Porter-King’s mission is to see Hawaiian youths use golf to enrich their lives through education and beyond. The first question she always asks a past participant is, “Are you still playing?”

More than wins or success stories, Porter-King takes great satisfaction when she watches one of her players take his/her hat off and shake hands or offer a hug to their fellow-competitor at the conclusion of a round.

She also relishes having college coaches ask her about the next wave of Hawaiian talent. There was a time when she had to knock on doors and make phone calls to promote her juniors.

“That’s the only reason I am doing it. Professional golf is a tough life, and it’s not for everyone. But if we can get them an education [through the game], that’s my goal.”

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.

125 Years of American Golf