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Family ties give Collin Morikawa's return to Hawaii added meaning

December 31, 2019

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KAPALUA, Hawaii — Collin Morikawa is among the 15 first-time participants in this week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua Resort, but he’s not a stranger to the Plantation Course.

With family born in Maui, Morikawa had a chance to play the Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw design on one of his holiday visits. He doesn’t remember much about the course from that day, but he knew it was a special occasion. He was just 9 years old.

“I just remember sitting right outside the clubhouse taking a family picture, and that's about it,” said Morikawa, the Los Angeles native, who qualified for this winners’ only event by capturing the Barracuda Championship in just his eighth PGA Tour start.

“To play any PGA Tour course before you’re actually on the PGA Tour is cool, I think,” Morikawa said. “I think it’s something you realize what the PGA Tour players get and the courses that you can play one day, hopefully.”

Morikawa’s fraternal grandparents hail from nearby Lahaina—Morikawa thinks a member of his large extended family once owned a restaurant there—and he still has plenty of family who live on Maui and Oahu, where next week he will compete in the Sony Open in Hawaii at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. So, this is quite the home game. A lot of family will likely be on hand at both events.

“I’ve been able to come to Hawaii quite often, and I love it. It just feels so relaxing, so much like home, and it's just such a good place to be,” he said.

But Morikawa isn’t here to relax like in more recent visits, when he didn't even bring his clubs along. “It’s going to be about business,” he said. “We’re coming here to win.”

A few years ago, Morikawa, 21, was reminded just how special Maui can be for professional golfers. And he hoped that there would come a time when he would be among them making the trip here for something other than a family reunion.

“We would come over New Year's, and when we saw the courtesy cars with the sticker slapped on the side that said Sentry Tournament of Champions, I thought it was really cool,” said the Cal-Berkeley standout. “I was kind of in awe, like ‘Oh, you know, there's a player somewhere around here, and maybe one day I'm going to be that player,’ and it happens this year that I'm over here with a courtesy car driving around whether it be Lahaina, Sun Street, whatever, and I'm one of those players now. So it's kind of come full circle whereas a little kid I'd look up, see these guys in these cars and now we're here.”

And here to win. This is no vacation this year.