Deadly Lahaina wildfires hit close to home for Collin Morikawa. That’s why he’s found a way to help

August 10, 2023

Andy Lyons

MEMPHIS — The restaurant in Lahaina, Hawaii, has long been out of business, but now the building that housed the Morikawa Restaurant is gone, too.

Wednesday’s deadly wildfires that decimated Front Street at the popular tourist destination on Maui and killed at least 36 people hit Collin Morikawa harder than many people looking on from afar. Morikawa’s fraternal grandparents were born in historic Lahaina Town, and, yes, the Morikawa Restaurant, believed to have been in existence in the 1950s and ’60s was owned by his family. He still has relatives who live there, while many others have moved to Oahu.

“It's devastating what we've been able to … what we've been seeing. The before-and-after photos are just heartbreaking, knowing that my entire dad's side of the family grew up there,” Morikawa said Thursday after completing his opening round in the St. Jude FedEx Championship. “My grandparents were born in Lahaina. We had the restaurant out there. That's what the photo was. We went there as kids. It's a special place. It's amazing how many things you take for granted really in life, and when you see that, it's just heartbreaking.”

A native of Los Angeles, Morikawa remembers visiting Lahaina, and, of course, he’s asked about his ties to west Maui every January when he competes in the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua Resort, where earlier this year he finished runner-up to Jon Rahm.

He said he woke up to the news and saw the devastation and knew that the building where the restaurant was located—he thinks it was most recently a jewelry store—was razed. Fire officials said more than 270 structures were damaged or destroyed, including an historic 200-year-old church.

Morikawa believed that his extended family members were all right, but “to see how many people have passed away from that, yeah, it's … I'm at a loss for words.”

But not at a loss for finding a way to help.

Over the course of the three-event FedEx Cup Playoffs, Morikawa is donating $1,000 to charity for every birdie he converts. He logged six on Thursday in a five-under 65 that left him tied for third, two strokes behind Jordan Spieth. The money, he said, will go to Maui United Way and World Central Kitchen, “to help out not just people in Maui but obviously hopefully people in Hawaii because it's everywhere.”

Winless since the 2021 British Open, Morikawa, 26, likes to think of the gesture as giving him extra motivation.

“Yeah, look, I want to make a lot of birdies for them,” he said. “One of our friends texted me, and they're like, OK, $100,000. I'm like, shoot, 100 birdies in three tournaments? I don't know if that's ever been done. But it would be a great feat to say the least.”

He hopes his peers will follow suit, and he plans to ask his sponsors to help, too, seeing how the PGA Tour has a tournament annually at Kapalua’s Plantation Course.

“It's one of the best places in the world we travel to year in and year out to go to Kapalua, play golf there,” he said. “I'm going to be pushing hard to make those birdies, and hopefully everyone else can reach out and help out as much as they can.”