Remembering the ultimate red shirt

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin 08/10/02)
By Ray Pendleton

A couple of weeks ago, I noted how the Hawaii International Billfish Tournament, which wrapped up yesterday in Kailua-Kona, is unlike any other fishing contest in our state.

Oh, it's about who catches the biggest fish of course, but after that the similarities end.

Perhaps most significantly, it has been an annual event - except for a minor miscue in 1999 - for 43 years.

With its founder, Peter Fithian, still keeping a watchful eye on the operations and many of its anglers returning year after year, the HIBT has developed a collection of near-legendary historical anecdotes and traditions.

One such story involves California's Laguna Niguel Billfish Club team winning back to back tournaments in 1985 and '86.

The LNBC won its first title the very first year it fished the tournament and then outdid itself by winning the following year in a most flamboyant fashion.

With the now-famous "door knob" lure developed by team captain Brooks Morris, the team brought in a world-record 1,062.5-pound Pacific blue marlin on the final day of fishing.

That giant fish is now mounted and on display in Kailua-Kona's King Kamehameha Hotel, and Morris and his team are still fishing the tournament and looking for another "grander" and a third win.

As for traditions, one of the HIBT's most endearing activities for journalists covering the tournament has been its complimentary "Media Golf Tournament," held on Wednesday, a fishing lay day.

As you might expect, it has always been something members of the press have looked forward to and now it has taken on a more reverent air.

Last year, what was once just a day of golf was named the Kendall Cup to honor retired Pan American Airlines executive Paul Kendall for his many years of volunteer service to the HIBT.

Sadly, Kendall passed away several months ago, so now the golf tournament has become his perpetual memorial.

"Paul's expertise and experience in public relations and tourism was invaluable to the creation of the HIBT. Paul attended every HIBT through last year," Fithian said. "He will be greatly missed."

For many years, journalists were given red polo shirts embossed with the HIBT logo. It was Kendall's idea that it instantly identified the wearer as someone who was allowed to be inside the ropes, asking questions and pointing cameras.

The red shirt was also something of a favorite piece of clothing for Kendall himself. So much so that his daughter, Betty Bedillion, tells of his leaving the house with another shirt on and then changing into his red one later to avoid angering his wife by wearing the same red shirt every day.

In a tribute to Kendall, all 65 golfers in his tournament last week received a red golf shirt.

As for the Kendall Cup itself, it was awarded (to the shouts of "juice") to the foursome representing American Savings Bank, the tournament's major sponsor.

To my team mates, Kona businessmen Norton Roussel, Jeff Vermillion and Fern Desilets, I can only offer my apologies for my complete inability to read those tricky Kona Country Club greens. I promise, it won't be another HIBT tradition

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