Q: When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: When I was young, I actually wanted to be a priest. My parents were really into church and all that. As I grew up and moved to Hawaii (from the Philippines), I thought no, I think I want to go the other way and be in the military. My older brother had enlisted, and I tried to trick my parents at one point when I was 17 into signing my papers, but they did would not sign.
A few years later I joined the National Guard and utilized the GI bill to take classes at Kauai Community College. I studied sales and marketing and received a management degree. I worked in retail for a while, managing restaurants but I began to realize that I really wanted to work outdoors, and being inside was not for me.
Q: What brought you to the golf business and what has been your career progression?
A: After I realized I wanted to work outdoors, I took a job at Hokuala (then Kauai Lagoons). I worked under Earl Sanders on the agronomy team, asking a lot of questions and I remember Earl told me “If you want to learn about things, you need to learn on your own: study, take classes, ask a lot of questions.” So, I took some at-home classes with Penn State University.
I worked my way up kind of quick at the course and I was interested in chemicals and learning more about what they could do for the various grasses and weeds. Earl suggested for me to get my chemical license. After he left the facility, I knew I needed to learn more – this was my first time learning about the different golf grasses, the golf business was new to me. I was halfway into my degree at Penn State and that was when I was activated to go to Bosnia.
After returning from Bosnia, I was promoted to Assistant Superintendent where I continued to learn under various Superintendents at the facility. A few years ago, I was promoted to Superintendent at Hokuala, I oversee the agronomy team of about 15 which maintains the golf course and FootGolf course here on the island of Kauai.
Q: How long were you in the military? What is something you don’t mind sharing about your experience?
A: I was with the National Guard for 25 years. I worked full time at Hokuala (Kauai Lagoons) during the week and then once a month we’d have National Guard training all weekend, and once a year, we’d have a two-week summer training. Whenever they’d ask for volunteers to join in for an exercise I would do it. Early on, I traveled a lot: Korea, Japan, Australia.
In 2002, they picked only four guys from Hawaii to join a team in Bosnia and lead the younger crew there and I was one of the four selected. In 2005 with Iraq, it was my whole unit that was called over. Kawika Parangan (Outside Guest Services at Hokuala) was in my unit for Iraq – I was glad to have a friendly face, someone I knew from Kauai.
Q: How would you describe your experiences overseas in both Bosnia and Iraq?
A: When we went to Bosnia, it was such a different culture and way of life over there; that’s when I realized that life is not cheap, and you have to work hard for it. How I see people live over there and how the war started, it made me really appreciate where I came from and the people of the islands.
Initially when I went to Iraq, I didn’t want to come home, I thought I could stay over there for a long time. But then when I experienced what I did, it made me appreciate life even more – appreciate every day, what we have at home with our families. The experience and what I saw made me closer to my kids; I didn’t realize it would be that hard to be away and see the things I’ve seen. When I came home from Iraq, I wanted to spend time as much with my kids (who were 10 and 16) as I could, and I knew that that was my last tour.
It wasn’t easy though – I didn’t realize I would take it (the war) home with me. I was hardheaded and didn’t want to talk about what we went through over there with anyone. I wanted to keep it all to myself, and I had to find the strength to be able to talk about it.
For me, now, working is my therapy, I enjoy it and am happy to be out on the golf course every day. I have always loved the outdoors and especially now after what I experienced, I love the openness of the golf course, the surroundings and peacefulness.
Q: When did you take up the game of golf and what is your dream foursome for golf (you and three others)?
A: I started to play golf when my oldest son started playing; he was about 6 or 7 years old. We used to play all over the place – in junior golf and in high school, he got to travel all over the islands. When he left for college, I lost some interest in the game. Now, I play for fun – we have team building outings and associate fun events where we play at Hokuala or we go play another course on island.
My dream foursome would be Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas, Phil Mickelson and me.
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