Star-Bulletin Sports


The Asao siblings have played golf since they were youngsters. Above, Kellen-Floyd and Norman-Ganin Asao, who just finished a season playing together at the University of Hawaii, push each other to improve.

Born To Golf

The golf course is a playground for Asao clan

By Nick Abramo

NOT too long ago, Susan Asao didn't have to look very hard to find her three kids.

Most often, they were where she thought they'd be --on the golf course.

Nowadays, she usually knows where they are, but sometimes it's a little harder to find them. They're still marching down fairways and pacing finely cut greens, but many times it's far away in collegiate tournaments around the country.

Norman-Ganin Asao, 22, the first of the three to pick up a club as a youngster, just finished a four-year career at the University of Hawaii. He'll be a graduate assistant with the program in the fall.

Brother Kellen-Floyd Asao, 18, is preparing for his sophomore season with the Warriors, while 20-year-old sister, Whitney-Reigh Asao, just ended the spring season for the Pacific University team in Forest Grove, Ore. She's transferring to Hawaii in the fall as a junior, but isn't planning to play for UH.

Their dad, Norman Asao, got the ball rolling a long time ago by taking a very young Norman-Ganin to Oahu courses.

"As early as he could walk, he was carrying his plastic clubs around," Susan Asao said. "And before that, he was putting golf balls in his mouth."

As the president of the Oahu Junior Golf Association, the elder Norman continues to help young kids in their quests to learn the finer points (and pitches and putts) of the game. And as an executive chef at Honolulu Country Club, he's never far from the links.

According to those who know all three siblings, Norman-Ganin has the strongest work habits, constantly trying to improve and leading teammates and youth golfers to do the same.

Kellen-Floyd is starting to emulate his brother's drive.

"It's been a good thing, playing with Kellen," Norman-Ganin said. "He pushes me and I push him, and he played well enough to make all of our road trips, and that's pretty good for a freshman."

ACCORDING TO KELLEN-FLOYD, most of their friends and acquaintances say Whitney-Reigh has the nicest swing of the group.

Kellen-Floyd, Norman-Ganin and Whitney-Reigh Asao shared a light moment years ago.

"I know she has the talent," Kellen-Floyd said about his sister. "It's just a matter of whether she wants to pursue golf or not. She hits the ball really straight, and I'm kind of in awe at how accurate she is."

All three had stellar high school careers at Hawaii Baptist Academy and were teammates on the 1998 Interscholastic League of Honolulu championship team. Among their many individual accomplishments, Norman-Ganin won the state high school and state junior titles in 1997, while Whitney-Reigh earned the 2000 ILH title and Kellen-Floyd captured the 2000 state junior championship.

A year ago, Kellen-Floyd went on a fantastic run, winding up in second place in the prestigious Manoa Cup. One year earlier, Norman-Ganin was the Manoa Cup runner-up.

Norman-Ganin's leadership has had a big influence on Kellen-Floyd's development.

"Because he's a well-known golfer and has had some good finishes, it gives me incentive, something to strive for," Kellen-Floyd said. "He's a role model for me and, I'm sure, to many junior golfers around the state."

According to their mom, Kellen-Floyd and Whitney-Reigh are "best friends" and Norman-Ganin is the "older brother."

"Kellen is a rascal and a jokester and Mr. Happy-Go-Lucky," she said. "And I tell people that I'm very lucky to have Whitney-Reigh as my daughter because she's an almost perfect child. No one is perfect. She's just a really good kid, always willing to help people.

"As for Norman, I can see him as a golf teacher some day. He loves little kids and little kids love him."

Mostly, Susan Asao is just happy that her kids can play golf together and get along well.

Her favorite photo is of Kellen-Floyd covered in mud after trying to hit out of a shallow water hazard.

"I took it because I couldn't believe he was hitting from there," Susan said. "He loves those difficult shots."

Kellen-Floyd had no problem hitting from the water. "I had been in that same situation before and it worked," he said.

Hawaii golf coach Ronn Miyashiro will miss Norman-Ganin's presence, but he's still got Kellen-Floyd.

"The Asao tradition continues," Miyashiro said. "One leaves and we've got one for three more years. Norman has been a steady performer and intense competitor for us throughout, and we're glad to have him with us for another year as a graduate assistant while he finishes up with school."

THE FAMILY RESIDES in Pearl City and finds rare opportunities to go fishing. They're also pet friendly. They have seven dogs, a cat, a parrot and some fishes, and they used to have a lemur, chinchillas, chickens, tortoises, rabbits, birds, ducks and many more fishes.

"The cat we have now, my husband brought home and Whitney fed him with an eyedropper and took such good care of him," Susan said. "He is king of the house now."

All three of the kids were involved in other youth sports as kids, but the power of the golf magnet continues to draw them, not only toward the sport, but also tighter together as a family.

Once in a great while, the magnet loses a bit of its power.

"One time, my husband drove the kids and some friends from the Junior World Championship in San Diego to the Six Flags amusement park and got lost for seven hours," Susan said. "They'll never let him forget that one."

Like any parent, she knows her kids are special, but she also talks glowingly about many of the other junior golfers around the state.

Norman-Ganin, Whitney-Reigh and Kellen-Floyd Asao's mom and Norman Asao's wife grew up in a non-golfing family, and now she wouldn't be able to get away from the sport even if she wanted to -- not only because she's the OJGA assistant treasurer, but also because she loves what golf has given to the family.

It's just not exactly what she expected.

"I always hoped I would be a Rainbow baseball mother," she said.

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