Planos ends his long ride as Kapalua icon

By Associated PressJanuary 10, 2011, 9:44 pm

KAPALUA, Hawaii – Gary Planos came to Maui some 35 years ago with $7,000 in traveler’s checks and no idea where he was going.

“I thought I was going to be a waiter,” he said from his office overlooking the ocean, a view that doesn’t get old. “I brought a correspondence book on advertising with me, sat on the beach, got bored and the next hour got a job at Kapalua.”

Planos started as a bag boy at the new Bay Course, earning $3 an hour with playing privileges.

It led to more than he could ever have imagined.

His amazing ride ends Sunday with the Tournament of Champions, an event over which he has presided for the better part of two decades, looking after everyone from Jack Nicklaus to Tiger Woods, from Hale Irwin to Ernie Els.

“Gary is Kapalua,” said Steve Stricker.

His job as senior vice president of resort operations—the ninth title he has held dating to his days as a bag boy—was eliminated last year as the resort changed its direction. It no longer will manage its golf courses or run tournaments.

For so many years, most people didn’t know what his title was. Planos simply was the guy who would show up at various PGA Tour events in an Aloha shirt with the famous Kapalua butterfly logo.

For years, Planos was identified just as easily by four words: “Do you need anything?”

He has taken David Toms and Chad Campbell on hunting trips. He has arranged fishing trips and whale-watching excursions on the Maui Jim boat for more people than he can count. Need a dinner reservation during the busiest week at Kapalua? Planos could whip out his cell phone and with one call take care of it.

Mike Ditka was in his steakhouse in Oak Brook, Ill., last September, trying to get out of the restaurant as patrons at every table stopped him to ask for an autograph or a picture. It was getting old. And then he saw Planos at a table and stopped to visit.

“How’s everything at Kapalua?” Ditka said, a frequent visitor.

Longtime friend Joe Torre once made a last-minute request. It seems New York Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte needed 15 hotel rooms at the Ritz-Carlton for New Year’s Eve during the millennium. Done.

“He’s been an incredible host,” Adam Scott said. “I can’t say enough about the guy. He has to deal with 32 prima donnas every year, and somehow he caters for all our needs. He’s done a hell of a job and there’s always a smile on his face.”

It’s not just the players whom Planos looks after.

Ernie Els came to Kapalua for the first time in 2000 when his daughter, Samantha, was 7 months old. He was amazed at the lengths Planos went to look after her.

“Out on tour, he’s just the best,” Els said. “I know they have had a tough time here, but I cannot say enough about Gary and the way he has handled the tournament and the players all these years. I don’t think there is a better tournament, really.”

Rocco Mediate brought his sons to Hawaii, and the day they were to leave, he forgot to arrange a ride to the airport. He made a phone call, only to learn Planos and his staff had already taken care of it.

“He takes care of everything, most of the time before you even know it,” Mediate said.

Scott brought his parents to Kapalua this year. Planos put them on the Maui Jim, let them play the Plantation Course the day before the tournament week got under way and arranged for golf anywhere on the island.

“My parents think he’s the guy’s meant to book all that stuff,” Scott said. “They have had the best time. More than making the players happy, he makes the people around them happy, which makes the players really happy.”

Planos has never given it a second thought.

“I learned really early that if I was friendly to whoever I was caddying for, I would get tipped better,” he said. “If you did a better job teaching, they would return. It’s not anything you have to think twice about.”

Planos grew up in the Chicago area as an Evans Scholar caddie, and remains part of the Western Golf Association.

So how does a bag boy become a favorite of golf’s biggest stars?

Planos decided to become an assistant pro, which took him away from Kapalua for a brief time, but not Maui. He worked at Kaanapali for three years, then spent four years at Wailea, working in the shop for six hours and teaching for six tours.

Mark Rolfing, the NBC Sports analyst who now runs the Tournament of Champions, was marketing director at Kapalua in 1984 when he hired Planos to be the head pro at the Village course, and Planos was on his way.

For the last 20 years, he has lived in a house that he rents with a view to Australia if he could see that far. His office in the pro shop at the Plantation Course overlooks the first tee, one of the most glorious vistas in golf.

“When I became an assistant pro, I thought I might be able to be a head pro and my highlight would be the member-guest,” Planos said. “I never realized my member-guest would be the Tournament of Champions. I got very lucky. I very much appreciate the luck I had. And I know I’ve got more ahead of me.”

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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

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Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm