Paul Spengler saw the future of Hawaii golf up close and personal when he returned to Hawaii in 2008 for the 100th Manoa Cup.
Organizers invited him to play in the qualifier and, at 68, Spengler qualified. His wife, Cyndy, picked him up that afternoon and was happy to see so many young — extremely young — golfers at Oahu Country Club.
“She says, ‘Is the state junior championship here, too?’ ” Spengler recalls. “I said, ‘No, that’s the field.’”
Lorens Chan was 3 when Spengler was inducted into the Hawaii Golf Hall of Fame in 1997. A decade later Chan beat Spengler in the first round.
Next week’s 111th Manoa Cup will honor Spengler, who beat Larry Stubblefield 50 years ago to join an elite few who have won the Hawaii State Amateur Stroke Play and Match Play championships.
“It was an honor to win medal play twice, but the most revered championship in the state is still the Manoa Cup,” Spengler said by phone from Carmel, Calif. “I failed a couple times, then finally won by beating Stubblefield. For sure that was the highlight of my golf in Hawaii.”
He grew up in Marin County (Calif.) and played for Arizona State’s 1961 NCAA runner-up team. About then, his father asked if he would be his partner in a national distillery company in Hawaii.
“I was thinking about professional golf and asked him for some time to think about it, then said yes, I’d go to Hawaii,” Spengler says. “I was the same age as Jack Nicklaus and knew I couldn’t beat him so why not?”
He was one of Hawaii’s finest amateurs in the 60s and 70s, and served as president of Waialae Country Club in 1980.
Three years later, Don Ohlmeyer started a TV production company and asked Spengler to help with the first Skins Game in Hawaii, then to come to the mainland and work full-time the following fall. In between, Peter Ueberroth — another family friend — asked him to help at the 1984 Olympics.
Spengler traveled 38 weeks a year to produce PGA, LPGA, Senior PGA and Skins Games golf for TV. At a New Year’s Eve party in 1990 at Spanish Bay — part of Pebble Bay Resort — he ran into another old friend who was the president of Pebble Beach and having problems with his golf division.
“I said, ‘Why don’t you hire me? I’ll square away your golf division and run the U.S. Open in 1992,’ ” Spengler recalls.
They got distracted, but the next morning while Spengler was golfing at Spyglass Hill, the president found him and asked if he was serious.
“I said absolutely, it would be an honor and privilege, and a lifestyle change to be in just one place,” Spengler says. “And be able to improve everything about Pebble Beach and the U.S. Open.”
He was senior vice president for golf operations, chairing the 1992 and 2000 U.S. Open championships. He remained on the payroll after moving to Charlotte, N.C., in 2013 to be near his grandchildren. He still helps with nine events a year.
That includes this week’s U.S. Open — happening the same year Pebble Beach turns 100 — and Dick Tomey’s Coaches Classic. Spengler and Tomey, who died last month, had been friends since Tomey became the University of Hawaii’s football coach in 1977.
“We conducted the 29th Coaches Classic two days before we went to his memorial service in Arizona,” Spengler says. “There were a number of Hawaii people at those services. It was well attended, two or three thousand people at McKale Arena and so many coaches. There were a lot of big men who were sad and in tears. It was very rewarding and emotional.”
In between work shifts at one of the most iconic, and breathtaking, golf properties on the planet, Spengler actually got to golf. He won the 1996 California State Senior Amateur Championship, qualified for a handful of major senior championships and played the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am 25 times across six decades.
His best finish was second in 1967, with pro partner Ted Makalena, another family friend from Hawaii. Spengler also knew fellow Hall of Famers Francis Ii Brown and Jackie Pung.
Spengler now follows Hawaii golfers like Michelle Wie, Parker McLachlin and, of course, Chan.
Spengler, who still has a 12 handicap, will turn 80 while he is here, seeing grandchildren and celebrating his birthday and daughter Kristen’s … along with the 111th Manoa Cup.
Monday’s qualifying tees off at 6:30 a.m. The women are playing for 16 spots in Tuesday’s first round and the men for 63 spots. Joshua Sedeno will defend his championship and is seeded No. 1 for Tuesday’s first round. Other former champions playing include Brandan Kop, Tyler Ota and Matt Ma.
111TH MANOA CUP
At Oahu Country Club
>> Hawaii State Amateur Match-Play Championship
>> Men—Monday, qualifying, 6:30 a.m.; Tuesday, first round, 6:30 a.m.; Wednesday, second round, 7 a.m.; Thursday, Round of 16, 7 a.m.; June 21, quarterfinals, 7:08 a.m., semifinals, noon; June 22, final (36 holes), 7 a.m.
>> Women—Monday, qualifying, 6:30 a.m.; Tuesday, Round of 16, 11:26 a.m.; Wednesday, quarterfinals, 9:24 a.m.; Thursday, semifinals, 8:12 a.m.; June 21, final (18 holes), 7 a.m.
>> 2018 Champions: Joshua Sedeno and Brittany Fan