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Golf courses in his blood

  • JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM
    Matt Hall, director of golf at Turtle Bay Bay Golf Course and Resort in Kahuku, poses on his favorite green, hole No. 16. The course was designed by Arnold Palmer.
  • JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM
    Matt Hall poses against a backdrop of the course.
  • JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM
    Matt Hall arranges logo balls inside the pro shop at the Turtle Bay Golf Course and Resort.
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A chance meeting turned into a path of discovery. And then a road to a career.

It was there that a young Matt Hall found golf. Or, rather, golf found him.

A club was waiting in a vacant lot not far from Hall’s Orange, Conn., home. Whether it was unintentionally misplaced or intentionally thrown in frustration from the nearby Grassy Hill Country Club didn’t matter.

Hall, much like Arthur discovering the sword in the stone, found magic. Add a few golf balls, borrow his grandfather’s old persimmon-head clubs, rent Jack Nicklaus’ "Golf My Way" on VHS and start sneaking onto the GHCC course for a couple of holes and Hall — some 15 years before becoming the director of golf at Turtle Bay in 2002 — was hooked. And busted.

"My friend and I were about ready to tee off when a cart pulls up and the guy says, ‘Excuse me, are you members?’" the 39-year-old Hall recalled. "We told him no, we were caddies. He asked who our caddy master was, and we said we didn’t know, we just started.

"He told us he was the golf pro, that they had no caddies and to come into the golf shop after we finished playing the hole."

"I never had to figure out what I wanted to do. I had people telling me, ‘If this is what you want, this is what you need to do, where to go and how to get better at what you’re doing.’"

Matt Hall
Director of golf at Turtle Bay Resort

Pete Pulaski, who went on to a much-decorated career as director of golf at the Yale (University) Golf Club, made Hall an offer: Pick up all the balls on the driving range on Sundays and play the course the following week.

"That was great for me. I was only playing the two holes that went back and forth behind my house," Hall said. "This deal opened up the other 16."

It also opened up his eyes to the future. Mentored by Pulaski, Hall learned not just the sport, but also the business. He did inventory, club repair, course maintenance and pro shop customer interaction — everything that Hall continues to do at Turtle Bay, where there’s never a typical day.

"There’s always different stuff," said Hall, a scratch golfer. "The other week, I was up on the roof with the air-conditioning guys. We’re in the middle of our bunker (renovation) project. I’m in the office working on reports, meeting with wholesale vendors. I enjoy putting tournaments together.

"The best part? It’s golf. We’re here, making sure somebody enjoys themselves for four to five hours, being out with their friends. That’s why I enjoy playing with my friends. They aren’t good golfers but nobody cares. It’s not about the score; it’s about the experience."

Hall said he feels fortunate that he had tunnel vision when it came to his career choice.

"It’s weird, I never wanted to do anything else," he said. "I never had to figure out what I wanted to do. I had people telling me, ‘If this is what you want, this is what you need to do, where to go and how to get better at what you’re doing.’"

That included summer internships at Yale and Cog Hill, home to the Western (now BMW) Open. He graduated in 1997 from New Mexico State, then one of only four schools in the country

that offered a PGA Golf Management Program, earning a degree in marketing with an emphasis on golf.

Hawaii Golf Hall of Fame member Ron Castillo Jr. took notice and hired Hall as his fourth assistant at Hapuna Golf Course on Hawaii island. Hall eventually moved up to first assistant.

When Castillo left the course, Hall decided

to make a change as well. He was headed for work in Japan when Turtle Bay called with

an interview request.

Twelve years later Hall is a fixture not just at the course, but also in the North Shore community. He regularly DJs at functions; is on the board of directors of the Turtle Bay Foundation, the resort’s charitable, cultural and environmental education arm; and is a competitive triathlete who has previously qualified for the XTERRA World Championships.

If he wasn’t an award-winning golf pro, Hall said, his alternatives would be pro triathlete or DJ. The latter has become more than a hobby for "Baumer," as Hall is known; last month he performed at EDC Las Vegas, one of the largest electronic music festivals in the world, which drew 120,000 people.

It reinforces his belief that everything sounds better with music, an inner triathlon with legs of rhythm, tempo and relaxation.

"I’ll play anything that someone wants to hear, country, hip-hop, Sinatra," said Hall, also the co-host of the Saturday morning radio show "1420 Golf." "It’s fun to see people have a good time. It’s very similar to golf.

"I wanted to emulate Pete (Pulaski). He liked the job he had, everyone liked him, people always wanted to go golf with him. He had lots of fun, and that was very appealing to me."

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