The oldest continuous golf tournament in Hawaii is the Manoa Cup Championship. 1907 marked its first tournament and it is still going strong. It began when Messrs Arthur F. Wall and James D. Dougherty donated a trophy cup to their Club, the old Manoa Golf Club in Manoa Valley sometime between late 1905 and early 1907.
The actual date that the Manoa nine hole links terminated its operations cannot be ascertained, however, it is believed that the grounds were gradually phased out during 1906-1907 with the Manoa Club's complete disbandment in September 1908. With Oahu Country Club coming into existence on June 8, 1906, there was a close relationship between the two Clubs, with many of the Manoa Club members joining O.C.C. as Charter Members.
The engraving on Messrs Wall and Dougherty's Cup states "Manoa Golf Club Championship", but apparently the Cup was never offered as a prize in any of the Manoa Club's tournaments. In view of the closing of the old Manoa links, its members donated the trophy to Oahu Country Club.
The first time the Cup was pledged in a golf tournament was on September 8, 1907, in the Territorial Open held on Oahu Country Club's new 9 hole links for the championship of the Islands. The contest was advertised as the Manoa Cup tournament and it has continued under this name throughout its history. The tournament has been played every year since 1907 except for the World War II years of 1942 and 1943. The trophy is now often referred to as the "historic prestigious Manoa Cup".
The winner of the tournament does not receive the Manoa Cup but instead his name is engraved on the perpetual trophy, which is kept on display in the Clubhouse at Oahu Country Club. Each year the winner is given a small cup or shield as a memento plus other golf related merchandise.
In 1914, Wall and Dougherty donated to O.C.C. a large plaque designed in the shape of a shield with the words "Oahu Country Club -- Honolulu Champions" engraved on it. The plaque was used in conjunction with the Manoa Cup trophy as the tournament winners had their names engraved on small shields which were then placed on the large plaque. Small shields were also placed on the plaque for the previous winners starting in 1907. In 1935, the plaque was retired, as there was no remaining space for additional shields. The old plaque is now on display in the OCC Clubhouse.
In the early years, Oahu Country Club's course was continuously being altered. For example, when the first tournament was held in 1907, the course was 2,813 yards in length; in 1910, six holes were revised and the yardage was reduced to 2,727 yards. In 1913, the old links was extended to 18 holes with a length of 4,940 yards. Therefore, the old winning scores cannot be considered on a truly comparative basis.
At the inception of the Manoa Cup tournament, the format was a combination of gross medal handicap competition. The entrants played 36 holes with handicaps the first day. The low 16 players qualified to play 36 holes the following week with no handicaps. The player shooting the low gross medal score became the champion of the Islands.
Originally, golf in the Islands was played by persons of affluence. By 1919, persons of all income levels were playing the game and an enormous number wanted to enter the popular Manoa Cup tournament. Commencing in 1919, in order to reduce the load on our short course, only 18 holes were played in the qualifying round; however, the 16 qualifiers played 36 holes medal play in the final round the following week.
In 1924, the tournament was limited to amateur players only. Also that year, entrants who were not members of Oahu Country Club were allowed to play at our Club on Friday and Saturday before the qualifying round on Sunday. Those who qualified were allowed to play on the course the entire week. The entrance fee was increased from fifty cents to one dollar. (In 1986, it cost $42.00 to enter the tournament.)
Another change was made to the format in 1926. The low 16 qualifiers in medal play entered into match play for 18 holes. However, the two finalists were required to play 36 holes.
The 1928 tournament was scheduled to be played in May and, as customary, many entrants prepaid their tournament fees. At that time there was no central governing body and tournaments were managed by committees chosen for specific tournaments. The committee members supervising the Manoa Cup suddenly on May 23, 1928, decided to postpone the event and substitute the Atherton trophy medal tournament to be held at the new superior Waialae course. The new course was of modern design, long and had up-to-date greens. The previously paid entry fees were refunded to the players.
Later that year, the Manoa Cup tournament continued as in the past, only the matches were played at the Waialae location under sponsorship of Oahu Country Club. During the ensuing years, substantial improvements were made to Oahu Country Club's course.
In 1929, the second year that the tournament was held at Waialae, the format was changed to again require 36 holes of play to qualify for the tournament. Starting in 1932, the semifinal players were required to go 36 holes similar to the finalists.
In 1930, the Hawaiian Golf Association was formed to govern Hawaii's tournament affairs. In 1933, the Association believed that O.C.C.'s course had improved to an acceptable level to hold the Manoa Cup tournament at its home in Nuuanu every other year with Waialae. Therefore, the tournament was played at O.C.C. in 1933, 1935, 1937, 1939 and 1941, and at Waialae on the even years of 1934, 1936, 1938 and 1940.
No thought was given to continue the tournament in 1942 because of the war situation in Hawaii that year. However, in 1943 the members of the Hawaiian Golf Association requested the use of our course for the tournament as they believed there was no threat of invasion of the Islands by the enemy and the condition of our course had greatly improved. O.C.C.'s Board of Directors refused the Association's request. The request was made again in 1944, at which time the Board reluctantly agreed but suggested to the Association that it limit entrants to handicaps of six or less and request the players to take all precautions possible to ensure the least damage to the course. The tournament has been held at Oahu Country Club every year since it was reinstituted in 1944.
In 1959, a new tradition was started. After the champagne was poured into the silver Manoa Cup mug to start the victory celebration, the new winner was tossed into the Club's swimming pool.
The old Manoa Cup mysteriously disappeared after Art Fujita won the tournament in 1964, and was not presented to Billy Arakawa in 1965 or to Ken Miyaoka in 1966 after they won.
During the 1966 tournament, Dr. Kiyoshi Iseki, a Honolulu dentist and avid golfer, read in the newspaper that the historic Manoa Cup trophy had been lost and that the Oahu Country Club was planning to replace it with another trophy. He remembered seeing it in a local trophy house. The old cup had been taken there for engraving probably by an official of the Hawaiian Golf Association but he never came back to pick it up. Dr. Iseki returned to the trophy house and learned it was still there so he notified Arthur (Babe) Carter, then President of the Hawaiian Golf Association. Babe picked up the trophy, had it polished, and said "hereafter we will leave it in the trophy case at Oahu Country Club where it belongs."
In appreciation for his locating the old sentimental cup, Dr. Iseki was invited to play golf at the Club with a foursome of his choice, plus lunch or dinner, with everything "on the house".
The Club initiated the practice in 1968 of donating merchandise for the Manoa Cup prize in addition to the blazer jacket and a miniature replica of the trophy. In 1973, the winner was also given free membership to the Club for one year. In 1979, this practice was terminated by our Club after an investigation revealed it was a questionable practice under a strict interpretation of amateur regulations.
From 1979 to the present, there has been little changed in the running of the Manoa Cup. The Manoa Cup continues to be one of the most significant amateur tournaments in the U.S.
In 2016, a Women's Division of the Manoa Cup was introduced to support a Hawaii State Match Play Champion open to all ages of women.