Gary Planos started at Kapalua in 1975 as a bag boy. Sunday he left at the end of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. In between, there were a bunch of different titles as Planos rose to become one of the faces of the resort and most prolific and nurturing employers in Hawaii golf.
Planos’ position of vice president in charge of marketing was eliminated last year with Kapalua closing its Village Course and selling the Plantation and Bay Courses. He has been a tournament consultant since the Mark and Debi Rolfing Charitable Foundation took over as TOC host organization in August.
Planos spent 27 years with the resort, with short stints at Kaanapali and Wailea early on. He returned for good in 1984, when Rolfing, the NBC golf analyst who also started in the cart barn at Kapalua, hired him as assistant pro.
Planos moved up early and often, earning more titles and responsibility. But what he is best known for here is his ability to bring lots of people into the business and turn out an inordinate amount of talented pros.
He has earned the Aloha Section PGA’s Bill Strausbaugh Award three times for his unique ability to improve working conditions, serve as a mentor and contribute to the game’s image.
Rolfing calls him the "Bill Belichick of golf pros, because if you were hired by Gary you were going places." Planos’ proteges are all over Hawaii, in Asia and stretch across both coasts on the mainland.
Former Titleist representative Les Tamashiro, one of Planos’ closest friends, praises Planos’ ability to teach people to take pride in where they work and the game.
"Gary lives, works and dies for the game of golf," Tamashiro says. "He shares his love for the game with everyone. He takes it one step further and makes golf people’s lives."
First Tee tees off again
First Tee on the Big Island will start its second year this weekend at the Swing Zone in Kailua-Kona and Waimea Country Club. The national nonprofit organization teaches "valuable life skills through the game of golf" to participants between the ages of 7 and 18.
First Tee starts its second year in Kailua-Kona on Saturday at 3 p.m. The Waimea program starts its third year Sunday at 3 p.m. The weekly program is scheduled to run through mid-December. For information, contact David Hardison at 808-430-2528 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday’s Emily T. Gail radio show will feature Hawaii pro Dean Wilson, Waikoloa director of golf Scott Head and senior golfer Mark McNulty. The show begins at 4 p.m. on 850-AM in Hilo and 790-AM in Kona.