HONOLULU — Longtime Hawaii sports writer Bill Kwon, who covered generations of golfers from Arnold Palmer to Michelle Wie, has died. He was 81.
Kwon’s friend and former colleague Ann Miller says he passed away Wednesday at a Honolulu nursing home where he had been living for about a year. She didn’t know his cause of death.
Kwon started at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin as a clerk in 1959. But his connection with the newspaper dated back even further to 1941, when he sold papers as a 6-year-old. He went on to be a sports reporter, columnist and sports editor before retiring in 2001. He later wrote a golf column for The Honolulu Advertiser for nearly a decade.
“He was so well connected in Hawaii that he could get any story, any scoop. He was a great newspaperman,” said Jaymes Song, a former reporter for the Star-Bulletin and The Associated Press.
Song recalled all the big-name golfers greeting Kwon at press conferences.
Kwon had wanted to be an athlete. But he broke his hip falling down stairs as a child, forcing him to spend much of the next four years in the hospital, Miller wrote in a 2010 Honolulu Star-Advertiser article about Kwon. So Kwon decided to write about sports instead.
Gordon Sakamoto, former Associated Press bureau chief, said Kwon’s “stick-to-it-ness” made him a great writer. He was an even better friend, Sakamoto said.
“He’d do anything for you,” Sakamoto said.
Miller said Kwon had lost some mobility recently but his mind was sharp. She said she had just had dinner with him on Tuesday, and he spoke of having watched television coverage of Palmer’s funeral. Kwon had known Palmer, the golf champion who died Sept. 25 in Pittsburgh at age 87.
“He just said he couldn’t stop watching it,” Miller said.
Miller said she learned from Kwon just by being around him.
“Whether he was talking to Arnold Palmer, or he was talking to Stephanie Kono or some 12-year-old junior, he pretty much talked to them the same way,” Miller said. “He asked them the same questions and treated them pretty much the same. I think I tried to follow that.”