Operational and scholarship funding will be restored to the University of Hawaii at Hilo’s women’s golf and men’s tennis team beginning fall 2010 announced *UHH Director of Athletic Dexter Irvin*.
“Because of great budget management and sacrifice on the behalf of all of our sports programs, we are able to make a commitment to keep women’s golf and men’s tennis solvent,” said Irvin. “There is a potential for additional institutions to come into the Pacific West Conference that have both of these programs. The potential addition of participating institutions would provide further opportunities for stronger conference affiliation in these two sports.”
“We cannot however survive without the continued efforts of our community members that have contributed to these two programs. We are very grateful for the resounding financial and active support for men’s tennis and women’s golf that has been demonstrated on the Big Island. Athletics at UH Hilo is working very hard to operate as efficiently as possible while providing maximum reasonable opportunities for success. The continued cooperation by our boosters, corporate sponsors, and the institution is essential to assist students in achieving their potential.”
Budgetary re-organization reduced scholarship and operational funding to both programs at the end of the 2008-09 season. As non-participating sports in the Pacific West Conference, women’s golf and men’s tennis took the brunt of the changes.
Behind the guidance of men’s *tennis coach Kula Oda* and *women’s golf coach Jim DeMello*, the scholarships for their athletes were preserved.
“With renewed commitment, the Vulcan women’s golf program can move forward in assisting young women fulfill the dream of playing college golf and getting a degree,” said DeMello. “We have been fortunate that we have done very little fundraising for our program but that will be changing.
“In the past, the community has been very supportive of our men’s program and I am sure that when the women’s program comes calling, that they too will also step up to the plate.”
Community fundraising helped Oda schedule full seasons during this period. Last year’s squad responded to the support by qualifying for the NCAA Division West Region tournament.
“Our relationship with the tennis community has been such a win/win situation,” said Oda. “Our student athletes have been doing grass roots programs for years, and have been outstanding role models to our junior tennis players. Recognizing the value of these programs and the positive influence this has on Hilo’s youth, the tennis community has in turn been extremely supportive of our men’s tennis team. Whether it’s donating their time or their hard earned dollars, the tennis community has come out in groves to ensure that the men’s tennis team here at UH Hilo continues to thrive. In this economic climate, when time and money are more valuable than ever before, it is extremely humbling for the team and I to experience the massive amounts of support that we received in our time of need. This experience has truly been an inspiration to me personally and makes me proud to call myself a resident of Hilo, Hawaii.
“Restored funding, coupled with the continued support from the community, will provide our student athletes with the quality college tennis experience that they all deserve.”
Organizations such as Hui Kako’o Kenika stepped to the plate and hosted clinics, challenges and other community events to support the program.
“When word got out that the tenure of the mens’ tennis team was in jeopardy, the members of the community voiced their concerns loudly,” said *Hui Kako’o Kenika President Kelly Moran*. “UH-Hilo tennis players are an important part of the tennis landscape here on the Big Island. One of the main reasons that the community feels so strongly about the tennis program is Coach Kula Oda.
“Through many community tennis fundraising events and junior tennis activities he has let the public get to know the tennis team players as individuals. Hui Kako’o Kenika is thrilled to hear that UH-Hilo has chosen to continue to fund the tennis program, and extends a sincere ‘mahalo’ to the many people who joined in the grass-roots effort to support Vulcan Tennis.”
Hui Kako’o Kenika is a fundraising entity whose mission is to promote Big Island tennis.