Porter-King gives Hawaii a voice on the PGA's board of directors
The Kauai resident adds to her impressive golf résumé as the third woman to serve on the board
Some people wear their passion on their sleeve.
Mary Bea Porter-King carries it in her golf bag.
Described by many as the godmother of the Hawaii State Junior Golf Association, she has served the sport she loves in many capacities, locally and nationally. An HSJGA co-founder and long-time president, Porter-King has also been a rules official at the Masters, Walker Cup, NCAA championships, USGA Junior Championships, and the U.S. Women's and Men's Opens.
Yesterday, she added another title to her impressive résumé.
Independent director on the Professional Golfers' Association of America board of directors. She becomes just the third woman in the 90-year history of the PGA to hold a board position, and will be the only woman on the board when she is formally inducted in November.
"My goal is to give back to the game and I'm very excited about this opportunity," Porter-King told the Star-Bulletin in a phone call from her Kauai home. "I owe the game so much. I'll never be able to repay it."
That she was available to consider this opportunity was precipitated by her "non-nomination" -- as Porter-King graciously put it -- to remain on the Executive Committee of the U.S. Golf Association for a sixth term. Last summer, right after she was told she would no longer be on the USGA Executive Committee, Porter-King was approached by the PGA about possibly joining its board.
She received a call last week, notifying her of her election. The Lihue resident will be formally sworn in by delegates at the PGA of America's 90th Annual Meeting, Nov. 13-19, at the Kiawah Island Golf Resort in Kiawah Island, S.C.
Porter-King will be part of a 21-member board which includes the PGA's president, vice-president, secretary, honorary president and 17 directors. The directors are comprised of representatives from each of the PGA's 14 districts, a member of the PGA Tour, as well as two independent directors, of which she will be one.
"The board votes on future sites of several major tournaments, such as the PGA championship," she said. "They look at ways to help the game grow.
"As their motto states, they promote the game while continuing to enhance the quality of it."
The PGA was established 90 years ago, but its guidelines could have been written with Porter-King in mind. Ever since moving to Hawaii in 1989, she has been active in junior golf.
She is president of the Kauai Junior Golf Association and continues to serve on the USGA Junior Championship and Regional Associations Committee in addition to her HSJGA position.
"I've always believed that until you provided more opportunities for the kids, they weren't going to develop," she said. "Until you put them in situations they were uncomfortable in, they wouldn't grow. If they were always playing in Kauai junior golf, playing against the same people, they weren't going to develop.
"When I took over Kauai Junior Golf, there was no HSJGA. The council that oversaw junior golf, I felt, wasn't inclusive. Several of us felt the need to expand and become more organized."
And so the HSJGA was born in 1998. The co-founders were Norman Asao, Merv Kotake, Greg Nichols and Porter-King.
In eight short years, the reputation of the HSJGA has grown. At the recent U.S. Women's Open, Hawaii had four teenagers in the field: 16-year-olds Michelle Wie, Stephanie Kono and Ayaka Kaneko, and 14-year-old Kimberly Kim.
At the recent U.S. Amateur Women's Publinx, Kim and Kono were joined by under-19s Christine Kim, Jaclyn Hilea and Cyd Okino. Four others had gone from the HSJGA ranks to college scholarships.
Porter-King is constantly approached at the high-profile tournaments by those who want to know the secret to Hawaii's success at the junior level. It has gone beyond Wie, now a pro.
"My feeling is a great sense of pride of what has been accomplished out here in such a short time," Porter-King said. "Hawaii has always had the talent but not the opportunities. We had to provide more competition in the state.
"If you only paddled (outrigger canoes) three times a year, you wouldn't get excited about getting in the water every day. Increasing the opportunities allowed them to grow."
Which has led to more opportunities, particularly at the collegiate level. Porter-King said she gets phone calls almost daily from college coaches wanting information on Hawaii golfers.
Besides increasing the local junior tournaments from three to 20, the HSJGA also is offering workshops for young golfers as well as their parents. The HSJGA Web site (www.hsjga.org) also has links to college information, mental training and a list of some 30 HSJGA alumni who have gone on to play in college.
"It's amazing the opportunities now for the kids," Porter-King said.
She grew up in the pre-Title IX days, taking up golf at age 7. She later went on to a four-sport career at Arizona State where, in 2001, she was inducted into ASU's Sports Hall of Fame in all four sports (golf, basketball, volleyball and softball).
Her golf career includes success at all levels: as a teen amateur (two-time Nebraska State Amateur medalist, and three Omaha City championships); in college (All-America honors at ASU) and professional (medalist, 1973 LPGA Qualifying School; 1973 LPGA Golf Inns of American Classic winner). She competed on the Tour until 1998.
In 2001, Porter-King was awarded the LPGA Budget Service Award for her work in junior golf, and was inducted in 2004 into the Hawaii Golf Hall of Fame. She also has a national award named for her.
The Mary Bea Porter Award, established by the Metropolitan Golf Writer's Association, recognizes a humanitarian or heroic act that enhances human life. In 1988 while playing in an LPGA event, Porter-King noticed a young boy floating unconscious in the pool of a house bordering the golf course. She climbed the fence and administered CPR, saving the boy's life.
Ready to embark on another golf odyssey with the PGA, Porter-King said she has no regrets about not having the opportunities that exist today for young golfers, particularly females.
"Every generation has its time, its era" she said. "The LPGA has had unbelievable eras with Babe Zaharias, Mickey Wright, Kathy Whitworth and Nancy Lopez. This generation will help the grow the game.
"But it is so different than when I played. It's a real business now. My (LPGA) generation weren't making great sums of money but we were closer as friends. Now it looks like they're not having as much fun as we had playing the game."
Porter-King hopes this generation will also learn to appreciate the rich history of the sport.
"I made a comment to my husband Charlie when Laura Baugh was interviewing Michelle (Wie) the other day," she said. "I told him the next time I see Michelle, I'll have to ask if she knows who Laura Baugh is.
"During clinics, I'll ask the kids if they know who Jack Nicklaus is. One boy answered that he was a movie star, confusing him with Jack Nicholson.
"I think it's important we all know the history because it gives you a better sense of the game. And golf's history is so rich and holds so much."
Through her commitment to the sport, Porter-King has more than earned her place in that history.