Nakatsukasa’s keeping it green


As Clarence Nakatsukasa approaches his 80th birthday, he is closing his latest career, presumably so he can play more golf.

Fittingly, the Hawaii Golf Course Superintendents Association awarded its executive director a Lifetime Achievement Award at February’s annual golf Ho‘olaulea. Nakatsukasa will retire as ED the end of this year.

He will retire again. The award was given for his service to Hawaii golf, his country and community. There have been several retirements.

Nakatsukasa graduated from the University of Hawaii in 1959 with a degree in history. Then he set about making some.

His Army career covered the next 20 years and he retired — for the first time — as a major. Military awards included the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Meritorious and Commendation Medal and Vietnam Campaign and Service Medal.

His golf game also was impressive.

“Golf gave me a lot of opportunities,” Nakatsukasa recalled about his military days. “I met a lot of people, played courses all over the world — on the mainland, in the Far East and Hawaii. The game really helped me in my career so I’m trying to give back. That’s why I’m still doing it.”

When he came home, Nakatsukasa was a Personnel Management Specialist with the Army Corps of Engineers and at Pearl Harbor Naval Base, along with Administrator for COMSAT, a satellite communications company.

His golf career — basically his third career — wouldn’t start until 1988, when his kids were out of school. He was a starter at Ala Wai and Golf Operations Assistant at Ted Makalena, then at Pali.

In 1994, the history major accepted the position of Golf Course Superintendent at Ala Wai, one of the busiest courses on the face of the earth. A year later, he began serving on the HGCSA board of directors.

Nakatsukasa’s training for his new position consisted of a huge course load ahead of time and hours of reading course maintenance material. He talked early and often with his new peers, along with suppliers of everything from equipment to fertilizer.

“I learned a lot from them,” he recalls, “and experienced a lot on my own.”

There was a lot to experience, with his assistant by his side. They usually showed up at Ala Wai at 4:30 a.m. and finished between 2-3 p.m. Nakatsukasa, who worked Pali simultaneously for eight “overwhelming” months, would be back on the weekend to play, and keep an eye on the place.

Along with the crowds, the flat course also has to deal with an abundance of salt in the soil, which causes bare spots. Its greens, which can be surprisingly good for a municipal course, are immensely difficult to maintain and nurture.

Along with everything else — for a multitude of reasons some courses face, and many do not.

“We’d be trying to do things to the golf course, but we’ve got so many people on it that it’s really hard to work around them,” Nakatsukasa recalled. “We had a lot of unhappy people when we’d close certain sections of the golf course. I always tried to talk to them and said, ‘Look, we’re trying to make it better for you guys,’ so they kind of understood.”

Ala Wai, with its legendary six-somes, not only deals with massive numbers on the course. It has relatively few maintenance workers, particularly in comparison to resort and private courses.

“The difficulty was not having the resources,” Nakatsukasa says. “Meaning primarily people and money and equipment. We have to make do with what’s available. We had to work hard and you had to get your workers convinced about what the job was all about, and why it was important to do the best you could.”

He sometimes still speaks about Ala Wai in the present, but he retired — again — 10 years ago. He quietly became the HGCSA’s first Executive Director. “For me,” he admits, “it’s a volunteer position.”

Golf must be a passion. He has worked too hard for it to be anything else.

“Maybe I’m crazy,” Nakatsukasa says. “I always felt along the way that golf was really good to me so I’m always trying to give back to something that did a lot for me.

“When I was playing and in the military I was a pretty decent golfer. A lot of people, I’m talking about generals and officers and members of Congress, I’ve gone out and played with them because I was involved in the game. That helped me in my career. Once I was done with that I needed to give back so that’s what I want to do now.”

Sounds like yet another career might take him into his 80s.


Photos of the 2014 HGCSA Golf Tournament and Seminar have been Published

CLICK HERE to view more GREAT pictures!

From the August GCM-Derrick Watts and the Prince Golf Club

The scenery alone at Prince Golf Club on the Hawaiian island of Kauai makes for experiences usually seen in watercolor paintings or on the big screen.

There is a rain forest on the property. Jungle. Rivers. The waterfall that comes out of a lava tube behind the 13th green by itself is breathtaking. For director of agronomy Derrick Watts, being able to work at a location most others would call a vacation destination is quite the perk.

“It is unbelievably beautiful and an architectural marvel,” says Watts, a 14-year GCSAA member. “For those who play the course, it is more a journey than a round of golf.”

Prince GC, on Hanalei Bay in Princeville, may look familiar. More than 50 years ago, its beauty was amplifed in scenes shot on location for legendary duo Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s musical “South Pacifc.” If anything, the flm served as a launching point for the island being viewed as the place to be for romance and charm.

In his own way, Watts has helped make the golf experience a land of enchantment.

A player development program that was initiated 16 months ago at Prince by a combined effort from the management team has been a big hit. As of June, more than 600 people have tried the program, which consists of a six-hole pitch and putt. Each afternoon, the driving range is cleared to make way for the Mini Prince Par-3 that opens at 4 p.m. Holes on the family-friendly course range from 48 to 91 yards and include an 8-inch-diameter cup to try to increase playability and enjoyment. It takes about 30 minutes to play, allowing each guest a chance to play six, 12 or 18 holes.
Continue reading ‘From the August GCM-Derrick Watts and the Prince Golf Club’

HGCSA Presents the 2014 Annual Seminar

Hawaii Golf Course Superintendents Association Presents the 2014 Annual Seminar At the Prince Hotel Waikiki October 3, 2014
08:00 A.M. (Check in time: 7:30 a.m.)


  • Turfgrass Nutrient Management
  • Invasive Pests Of Turfgrass and Landscape Plants
  • USGA Items Of Interest
Presented By: Dr.Micah Woods/Dr. Zhiqiang Cheng/Larry Gilhuly

Pre-registration required. Registration & Payment are due by September 15, 2014

Certification Points for: GCSAA CEUs and Pesticide

Please CLICK HERE to register online or to download the printable registration form.

HGCSA Members at the 2014 Golf Industry Show in Orlando

CLICK HERE to view the gallery of Hawaii Golf Course Superintendents members at the 2014 GIS in Orlando

Photos by Les Jeremiah Jr. CGCS


Final statistics from this year’s gathering of golf course superintendents, owners and operators, architects and builders were on the rise across the board versus the 2013 event in San Diego. Total attendance was 14,147, an 8 percent increase over last year. In addition, the two-day trade show, Feb. 5-6, attracted a total of 6,845 qualified buyers (up 14 percent from San Diego), who enjoyed 184,500 square feet of exhibit space and 561 exhibitors – increases of 7 and 9 percent respectively, from 2013.

About the Golf Industry Show Continue reading ‘HGCSA Members at the 2014 Golf Industry Show in Orlando’

The HGCSA 2014 “Lifetime Achivement Award” and “Superintendent of the Year” Recipients Announced

The 2014 Hawaii Golf Ho’olaule’a Awards Banquet was the setting for Russell Dooge CGCS-RT to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award and Robert Medeiros Jr. to be named the Golf Course Superintendent of the Year. These fine individuals were selected by their peers and the Board of Directors of the Aloha Section PGA as outstanding volunteers and experts of their craft.

russRuss is a 1975 graduate of UH Manoa with a degree in Horticulture Technology. He first served as a golf course worker at Mid-Pacific Country Club in many positions before assuming his first superintendent position at Kaluakoi GC on Molokai from 1977 to 1989. He subsequently served as GC Superintendent at Waikapu, Maui; Koele & Manele, Lanai; Sandalwood Maui; Kapalua and Kahili & King Kamehameha on Maui. Russell was one of the first GCSAA Certified GC Superintendent in Hawaii from 1985 to present. He has also served since 1996 to present as the HGCSA delegate to the national Golf Course Superintendents Association of America and served on numerous committees during his tenure.

Russ has also served as the HGCSA President on numerous occasions and has been a Association Director for nearly 20 years.

Russ has been the back bone of HGCSA during his tenure on the Board and has been our liaison with GCSAA. His contributions to HGCSA are immeasurable and have had a very positive effect in the growth and stability of the Association.

* * * * * * * * * *

robertRobert Medeiros has been active in the golf course business for 27 years. He has been at Kiahuna Golf Club in Kauai for 19 years. During his tenure at Kiahuna, he was one of the first superintendents to start converting to seashore paspalum grasses. He also has been involved in numerous renovations at Kiahuna which has helped the Club not only financially; but, also environmentally. In 2005 Kiahuna was named the Water Conservationist of the Year by the Dept. of Water Works of Kauai. This past year Robert has helped the owners secure a PV system to help reduce cost for the entire club.

Today, Kiahuna is one of the most energy efficient as well as environmentally friendly golf courses in the state. All of these accomplishments are due in great part to Robert’s leadership.

Re-energizing the synergy of the Hawaii Golf Course Superintendents Association

On January 10th, the HGCSA held a board meeting and golf outing and small get together at the Kaneohe Klipper golf course on Oahu. 22 participants both comprised of Superintendents and vendors enjoyed quality company and fun. Our goal for the HGCSA is to re-energize the association with these outings regularly and take it out to the neighbor islands as well. Mahalo to Ryan Wood for being such as gracious host and providing us with great playing conditions! Thanks to all for attending as well. We look forward to continued participation with these types of events.

Annual Dinner at the 2014 GIS in Orlando

I hope everyone enjoyed a Merry Christmas!

Once again, time is nearing for the Golf Industry Show and the annual Mahalo Dinner sponsored by various suppliers who support the Hawaii golf industry. Attached is the invitation and information for the dinner which will be held on Wednesday nite, February 5 with hosted cocktails beginning at 5 pm. Since most everyone seemed to enjoy the last GIS dinner in Orlando, we’ll repeat our visit to Vito’s Chop House. It’s conveniently located somewhat near the convention center and many of the hotels.

I hope to see you there. Please rsvp with the attached form or with a simple email reply to me.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year!!


Al Kakazu

B. Hayman Co.
94-062 Leokane St
Waipahu, HI 96797
Phone (808)671-2811
Direct (808)686-9202
Cell (808)265-2177
Fax (808)677-4961

David Smallwood Receives Certificate Of Completion from the Syngenta Business Institute

David Smallwood (left) receives his certificate of completion for the Syngenta Business Institute from Stephanie Schwenke (right), the company’s golf market manager.

David Smallwood (left) receives his certificate of completion for the Syngenta Business Institute from Stephanie Schwenke (right), the company’s golf market manager.

Congratulations to David Smallwood, who was selected as one of 22 golf course superintendents to participate in the Syngenta Business Institute, a unique, educational program.

The Syngenta Business Institute is sponsored by Syngenta in conjunction with Wake Forest University’s graduate school of business and was held Dec. 9 to Dec. 12 in Winston-Salem, N.C. While agronomic expertise is critical to superintendent success, Syngenta also recognized the need to provide superintendents with business management tools.

Syngenta worked with Wake Forest to develop a program that focused on financial and human resources management, delegation and negotiation skills, effective communications techniques, managing generational differences and more.

He was selected from a talented pool of superintendents based on an application process that reviewed their educational background, industry achievements and an industry-related essay.

Smallwood is the golf course superintendent at Kapalua in Lahaina.

GCSAA – Southwest: Hawaii course uses innovative design to offer fun alternative to golfers

by Jeff Jensen-GCSAA Southwest Regional Representative

Jensen-thumbnailAs I travel throughout the Southwest to varied allied golf organization meetings, the topic of player development is the most frequently discussed issue in the industry. What can facilities, superintendents, PGA professionals and allied golf organizations do to attract new players (both young and old) to the game?

While I can site numerous player development programs around the country, one of the best and most creative hails from the Aloha State.

Located on the North Shore of Kauai, The Prince Golf Club at the Princeville at Hanalei Resort is one of the country’s top golf and resort destinations. Designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., the course is annually rated among the Top 100 Courses in America by numerous publications, including Golf Digest, Golf Magazine and GolfWeek.

The course recently underwent a $5 million renovation, and, in an effort to provide a fun and fast alternative to the traditional 18 holes, the resort designed an innovative par-three layout.

The Mini Prince opened in April of 2013, and was carved out of The Prince’s world-class 13-acre practice facility, utilizing its practice greens and bunkers. Behind this innovative design is the management and golf operations staff including Derrick Watts, the GCSAA Class A director of agronomy at the Prince. Watts, the past president of the Hawaii GCSA, enhanced the existing practice greens and expanded them into six complete par-three holes that serve as part of the driving range for most of the day and are then transformed into a six-hole course in the late afternoon.

Continue reading ‘GCSAA – Southwest: Hawaii course uses innovative design to offer fun alternative to golfers’