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Once, long ago in 1983, the Hawaii Harlequins (founded in 1964) operated their annual tournament in Honolulu, which was sponsored by Pan American Airlines. The event brought in outside teams from the USA and foreign sides eager to sun and surf in the most southern state in the Union.
In 1983, the tournament attracted 36 teams from six different countries. The contestants were divided into three divisions – Champion, Social, and Old Boys – and the games played on the fields at Kapiolani Park, an improvement over the club’s earlier venue on the football field at Punahou School. Clubs came from New Zealand (10), Hawaii (9). And five each from Australia and Canada, three from Tonga and the USA, and one side from Taiwan.
The great distance between the Islands and the mainland was the reason for the tournament, a chance for the locals to play against visiting sides, and not among each other. For years, the Harlequins traveled annually to compete in the Monterey Tournament, the event model used by the home side.
In the Championship Division, the winners were the United Pirates from Tepuke, New Zealand 25-12 against Avalon of Lower Hut, New Zealand in an all Kiwi final. In the consolation game, Port Hacking, Sydney, Australia, defeated the Calgary Canucks 14-3.
The Social Division saw the Cottlesloe Pirates of Perth, Australia, beat Wellington, New Zealand, 18-3. The New Jersey Monmouth RFC outlasted the Harlequins 15-7 for third place,
Hawaii born Tom Conger remembered the tournament as a well-run event with the finals played at the University of Hawaii soccer pitch that attracted 3,000 spectators. He said, “As hosts, we planned a combination of on-field and off field events to give all visitors opportunities to experience Hawaii, including a genuine luau.”
Decades later, Pan American Airlines would cease to exist, and the tournament also disappeared into fond memory.