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 email@example.com.