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» Is general manager of the Kaanapali Golf Courses on Maui, which the state pension fund acquired in 2003 out of a foreclosure suit against a unit of Amfac Inc.
» Was named General Manager of the Year for 2004 from the more than 50 U.S. golf courses in the portfolio of Billy Casper Golf, the Virginia-based company that manages the two Kaanapali courses and the Puakea Golf Course in Lihue, Kauai
» Is Aloha Section president of the Professional Golfers Association
Answer: My last few jobs were focused on transition of golf courses' operations from one owner to another owner, from receivership or foreclosure to a new owner.
Starting with Koolau Golf Club when it was under Minami ownership, I worked with the foreclosure commissioner to take control of the assets while the property was in litigation through the foreclosure process and successfully see the project to the new owner through the foreclosure auction.
I also did ownership transitions at Turtle Bay, Luana Hills and most recently at Kaanapali, where I was retained by the court-appointed receiver, Joe Toy, to run the asset and ... successfully see that through the foreclosure process and transition to a new owner. And the new owner has asked me to stay on at Kaanapali. So it has been three years now at Kaanapali.
Q: Did you have previous real estate or operations experience?
A: Not really. I think I am much more entrepreneurial in spirit. I like building businesses. I like the adventure, the journey that comes with establishing a business and seeing it work. It fits my personality very well.
Q: How so?
A: I like the excitement of having ideas, putting those ideas on paper and applying them and then being able to execute the plan and see it through. I really like the idea of having business theories, different ideas that you don't get from a textbook, much more intuitive, relying on gut instincts, making those intuitive decisions that can make the reality. Once the operations have been established, then it takes on a different personality. I really like coming into situations that need change and I can see those changes through.
Q: What was the challenge about Kaanapali?
A: What's interesting about Kaanapali is it was originally opened in 1962. It was marketed as one of the original planned resort developments in the state. And there's some on the labor force who were original employees. ... So there's an operation that has been 40-plus years old, and I was bringing much-needed change to a very established operation. Really what I wanted to communicate to the staff was that in order for us to get the next level of the golf course, within the golf industry and business, there was some things that we needed to do to accomplish that goal. ... The employees understood the goals we established, why we needed to change those goals and how we needed to achieve those goals.
Q: How much did revenues grow last year?
A: 2003 vs. 2004, our rounds are up 8 percent, revenues were up 7 percent. We're still in our growing stage. We have loftier goals. This is one of the stepping stones that we want achieved and ... we are on the track to where we want to be in a few years.
Q: And where is that?
A: We want to be back to being a premiere resort destination, premiere golf experience. When someone wants to talk about the best golf experience in Hawaii, we are top of mind.
Q: Kaanapali Golf Courses will host Hawaii's second-ever U.S Open Qualifier on May 21. Have other changes occurred since the state took over ownership of the courses?
A: We're also going to be working with the U.S. Open Sectional, which is one step from the U.S. Open. Whoever qualifies through the Sectional at Kaanapali qualifies for the U.S. Open. The Sectional will be in June. Some other things we are doing: We are embarking on a $10 million renovation project over the next two years, on the two golf courses and the clubhouse.
Q: What's the biggest part of working on golf courses that are going through such ownership changes?
A: The biggest thing is understanding how to set up the business and set up the operation, everything from building budgets, marketing plans, operations, operations manuals, procedure manuals, accounting procedures and really dealing with ownership issues being sensitive to understanding what owners want, what they need. It is a little niche that not many people do and understand. One of the things that I really like about it is you learn a lot. You get a ton of experience in a short period of time.