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MAUNA KEA RESORT

Where the warmth of the sun is eclipsed only by the warmth of the aloha spirit.

KOHALA COAST, BIG ISLAND OF HAWAII: Humor­ous, unpredictable, and always up for shenanigans, mascots are a vital part of live sports in America. From Wally the Green Monster (Boston Red Sox) to Sourdough Sam (San Francisco 49ers) playfulness isn’t far behind.

The Mauna Kea Golf Course has its own mascot, albeit of a slightly different kind.

“Several years ago, we had a stray, pregnant cat sun­ning itself in our cart barn,” recalled Duane Otte, head golf professional at Mauna Kea Golf Course. “It was mal­nourished and blind in one eye.

“Our staff tried to endear themselves, but the cat re­mained skittish and a loaner. A local veterinarian removed the damaged eye that was clearly causing her distress,” continued Otte. “The impact was immediate and extraor­dinary, with her demeanor changing from timid to loving. We nicknamed her ‘Mama Cat’ and she is now our unoffi­cial mascot of the golf course.”

One of the many meanings of “aloha” is an expression of love and affection. “Mama Cat exemplifies the aloha spirit,” said Otte. “We all live on the same planet and it’s important for us to look out for one another.”

Building an Iconic Hotel

The Big Island of Hawaii is the youngest island in the Hawaiian chain. At 300,000 years old, it’s a freshman compared to the upperclassmen of Oahu (three million years old) and Kauai (four million years old).

Before the arrival of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, ranching was the Big Island’s major industry. The resort sits on a beach where cowboys and ranch hands would camp and fish after a day on the range.

On a flight home from Asia in the early 1960s, tycoon Laurance Rockefeller took a detour to Hawaii. During his scouting trip, he spotted the white crescent-shaped beach, fell in love, and soon afterward signed a land lease.

More than 1.5 million man-hours of labor were required to excavate 60 acres of lava, landscape the land with 200,000 plants, and incorporate 5,000 square feet of marble, a mile of wood, and 20,000 cubic yards of concrete into the construction of the iconic Mauna Kea Beach Hotel.

“We’re not for everybody. We’re for the for­tunate few,” exclaimed Rockefeller. When it opened, Mauna Kea was the most expensive ho­tel ever built. Praised by travel writers and critics worldwide, it was named at the time one of the “three greatest hotels in the world” by Esquire and one of the “10 best buildings” by Fortune.

Weak Kneed Need Not Apply

Mauna Kea Golf Course is a stout, yet fair test of golf with eye-popping views at every turn. The third hole, a par-3 that plays over the shimmering Pacific Ocean, is considered one of the most iconic holes in golf.

“In order to drum up publicity for his newly opened resort, Rockefeller produced a promotional made-for-tele­vision event with Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, and Arnold Palmer to quickly establish the hotel on the world’s stage,” reported Otte. “It was rumored the trio didn’t want to play from the back tee box on the resort’s famous third hole, with the concern they wouldn’t be able to clear the crashing waves and lava rock! I’ll wager you’ll have similar butterflies in your stomach just like Nicklaus, Player, and Palmer had when you approach the tee box. If there was ever an Instagram moment, this is it.”

The Pacific Ocean isn’t the only hazard you will en­counter during play.

Kauna’oa Beach at Mauna Kea Resort is omnipresent on just about every “best beaches” in America rankings. “Our Rees Jones design has 99 traditional bunkers guarding errant shots,” described Otte. “We like to refer to Kauna’oa Beach as our 100th hazard. A hard, blocked tee shot on No. 11 has a likelihood to find the sand. Since it isn’t out of bounds and our superb conditioning allows you to play summer rules no matter the time of year, many will at­tempt a recovery shot in their bare feet—with few success­fully getting up and down.” ■

For more information on Mauna Kea Resort’s seasonal golf packages, please visit MaunaKeaBeachHotel.com.