HIGH SCHOOL GOLF
Waiakea golf team has clubs stolen
A light-hearted preseason trip to Oahu has turned dark for the Waiakea High School girls golf team.
The Warriors were having dinner at Chili's Grill & Bar in Waikele on Thursday night when their rental van was burglarized. When they returned to the vehicle, 10 golf bags were missing.
The golf clubs are valued at about $1,500 per set, but making matters more difficult is the fact that finding replacement sets will be very difficult.
The situation had a surreal tinge for the young team.
"Summer (Mizusawa) came running in," freshman Britney Yada said. "She said, 'Oh, my god!' We thought she was joking. It didn't hit me. Then we got to the van."
Yada and Mizusawa, both freshmen, were two of 10 players whose clubs were stolen.
"I called my parents. They just said, 'As long as you're not hurt,' " Yada said. "It's kind of like this anger (inside), and I was kinda scared, actually."
Waiakea coach Ken Watanabe was stunned by the incident, but kept his cool.
"It's not like some other sports where you can easily replace equipment. The equipment is tailored to each golfer and it's very expensive," he said.
Waiakea is the defending state champion.
Watanabe is hoping the culprits return the clubs, no questions asked.
How the thieves broke in so easily is a sad, but oft-repeated tale.
"We found that they punched the keyhole in the driver's side," said Watanabe, who has large concerns about his young golfers.
"I had those clubs for only one year," Mizusawa said. "I have some other ones at home, (but) they're generic."
Watanabe fielded several calls through yesterday, meeting with TV media as his team browsed through a local golf store.
"There's a lot of mixed emotions. A lot of the girls feel insecure, invaded. Some of them had personal things left in the golf bags, too," he said.
Other than the four girls whose bags were not stolen, Watanabe's team won't be able to practice, let alone qualify for the state championships, without equipment.
"Hopefully, we can just get the clubs back. We have a BIIF match on April 1. Being on the neighbor islands, we can't really get clubs that fast. Some of the parents are resorting to going to the golf shops (on Oahu) today," he said.
Other golfers, however, may not be able to afford new clubs. That's where the generosity of concerned folks -- including 1990 Hawaiian Open champion David Ishii and his wife, Lorraine -- has surfaced.
"She's helping out a lot," Watanabe said. "Through First Hawaiian Bank, they're trying to establish an account for the girls.'
For youngsters like Mizusawa and Yada, it's a difficult lesson that could have a positive ending.
"I know I can't leave anything in a car again," Mizusawa said. "I'm sad."
"You just know people are out there everywhere," Yada added, clenching her fist. "But it just drives us more to win states."