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Collin Morikawa has roots in Lahaina. He’s pledging $1,000 per birdie for Hawaii fires relief

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Collin Morikawa is pledging $1,000 for every birdie he makes the next three PGA Tour events to help with relief for the deadly wildfires in Hawaii. For him, it’s personal.

His grandparents were born in Lahaina, the historic town on Maui where Front Street and all its restaurants and shops have been obliterated by the wind-swept fires that have claimed at least 36 lives. He still has relatives on Maui, though most have moved to Oahu.

“I think they’re all right, but just to hear … woke up this morning, just checking the news, and to see how many people have passed away from that, yeah. I’m at a loss for words,” Morikawa said.

Morikawa, who won the PGA Championship and the British Open within two years after graduating from California-Berkeley, began his bid Thursday with six birdies in his opening round of 65 in the FedEx St. Jude Championship.

He posted his plans on Instagram on Thursday morning, and by the end of the day had decided to send the money raised to Maui United Way and World Central Kitchen to help survivors on Maui and elsewhere in Hawaii.

Morikawa grew up in the Los Angeles area, but he said his father used to spend summers in Lahaina because his grandparents were there. The Morikawa Restaurant closed several years ago, though a local man happened to find a matchbook from the restaurant on eBay a few years back and worked through the PGA Tour and Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua to get it to him.

“It’s devastating what we’ve been seeing. The before-and-after photos are just heartbreaking, knowing that my entire dad’s side of the family grew up there,” he said. “My grandparents were born in Lahaina. We had the restaurant out there. That’s what the photo was. We went there as kids. It’s a special place.

“It’s amazing how many things you take for granted really in life, and when you see that, it’s just heartbreaking.”

Morikawa is hopeful other people would join in on his pledge by contributing for his birdies. He still has 11 rounds left, and said that one friend texted him that maybe he could reach $100,000.

“Look, it’s one of the best places in the world we travel to year in and year out to go to Kapalua, play golf there,” he said. “I know I’m going to ask my sponsors, I’m going to ask people that I know just to help out. Anything helps — per birdie I make, whatever you can afford, whatever you want to put in. I’m going to be pushing hard to make those birdies, and hopefully everyone else can reach out and help out as much as they can.”

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