Hyundai Tournament of Champions: King still a fixture at first tee
KAPALUA – Jerry King has an early wake-up call scheduled for this morning.
The official starter at Kapalua dating back to the 1996 Lincoln-Mercury International has to be on the first tee at the Plantation Course for the scheduled 7:10 a.m. pairing of Rickie Fowler and Jason Dufner in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
As he has been for all 56 rounds in the history of the event on Maui, King will introduce the starting group, and seven more – the other half of the field will start off the 10th tee.
“Oh, it’s great,” he said. “It is cool that I have that honor, that privilege to be able to get up there and do it, to spend quality time, be able to meet all of these guys, be able to shake all of their hands and be inside the ropes at a different level.”
King let the crowd on hand know who was teeing off Friday for what was supposed to be the first round before severe weather halted play. No one took the course Saturday, and he spent his time in the media room at his laptop.
The leaves today’s break-of-dawn assignment, with the event shortened to two days and 54 holes.
King has a distinct, barreling voice that cannot be missed when he steps to the forefront without the help of a microphone.
“To announce them, it’s fun, it is what I love to do,” he said. “I’m just now starting to get OK at it. It’s a great role and it is a great opportunity to be able to come back.
I don’t work for Kapalua anymore, but Hyundai invites me to come back. I get to emcee the pro-am draw party, too.”
His arrival time today?
“I’ll be up here at dark-30,” King said.
King has grown from a 27-year-old associate professional at the Kapalua Bay Course through several titles – including the director of instruction at the Kapalua Golf Academy from its opening in 1999 until 2012 – and is now the director of sales for Taylor Made in Hawaii, Guam and Saipan.
“I’m having a blast,” he said between returning emails on Saturday. “It was a great decision, but the first few months I’m kind of going, ‘What did I get myself into?’ because it is a lot of work. Especially at my age, it is a definite character builder.”
He knew, though, that he wanted to stay connected to the game, soon after getting a business degree from Southwest Texas State University.
“I moved to Dallas for a year, got a real job and got deskaphobia real quick,” he said. “That is when I decided I am going to do what I love to do, what I have a passion for, and that is the golf business.”
Last year, he won what he called the rookie of the year award for Taylor Made.
“My first year, they called it the ‘Rising Star Award’ and at 44, I didn’t think I would still be a rising star in anything,” he said. “So that’s been great, the relationships. Every golf course in the state and all the off-course shops, they are all my clients.”
He owns Jerry King Golf, a company that he runs in tandem with his assignment for Taylor Made, and still teaches periodically at the academy and on Oahu. He has seen the size of the staff at Kapalua Resort shrink dramatically.
“It has changed a ton,” he said. “Internally in terms of who runs it and who owns it and who manages it and who works here. There has been a huge change, but for all of the resort guests who come out here and all of the tourists that are visiting Kapalua, I don’t think they know a whole lot of difference. I mean, it’s Kapalua – location, location, location.”
King said the weather this week is the worst that he has ever seen at Kapalua.
“The fans and everybody that is here and the sponsors, they all want to see golf,” King said. “Just like you and I, we want to see golf. To have it winded out and rained out, it’s tough, but I think it’ll be forgotten if we can get in these 54 holes, get these guys out on the Plantation Course and have a solid finish.”
One of King’s more memorable moments as Kapalua starter came from a mistake. He gave K.J. Choi credit for playing partner Jim Furyk’s career highlights, including the 2003 U.S. Open.
Choi, who is Korean and speaks to the media with a translator, turned and said, “I didn’t know I won that.”
“Everybody clapped and went on,” King said. “They don’t care, they are nice guys and now I know I’m human.”
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org