When people think of South Shore golf, they think Poipu Bay Golf Course.
L. Ray Kachel, new Kiahuna Golf Club general manager and a certified club manager with 23 years of experience as a golf course general manager, and Jim “Coach” Miller, one of the Kiahuna Golf Club owners, are out to change all that.
After completing $5 million in renovations and hearing comments from local and off-island golfers alike that the greens, fairways and bunkers at Kiahuna are the best on the island, they feel like they’re on their way, they said.
Poipu Bay is still the premier South Shore course, but Kiahuna is not a “stepchild,” Miller said. “They have their place. We have a place, too,” said Miller, adding that owners and operators of both courses enjoy good relationships with each other.
“Poipu Bay will always be Poipu Bay,” Miller said.
“We’re well positioned in the market,” said Kachel, who holds a real-estate license and has development experience both on and around golf courses on the Mainland.
He hopes to work to increase the number of rounds played by Kaua’i residents, and to work to spread the aloha spirit, he said.
“It’s important that we become a bigger part of the community, and position ourselves in the golf community,” he said.
Kachel also has a long list of priorities, not including finishing up the ongoing renovations. His priorities include reorganizing the club, finishing off the laundry list of ongoing renovations, planting more trees, bushes and landscaping in the new year, and working with developers to build houses and apartments around the course.
In addition to working to position the course in the market and continue with course up-grades, the installation of a new irrigation system, building new starter shacks, relocating the maintenance building, moving the driving range to make room for housing, and other priorities, are all on his list.
And, as of today, Sunday, Nov. 20, he has been on the job all of nine days.
He has the full backing of the owners. “The owners are committed to making Kiahuna the best golf course it can be,” said Kachel.
Kachel replaces Brad Snyder, who resigned in July, effective Sept. 30, but agreed to stay on until his successor was named. Snyder, former general manager of the Kaua’i Marriott Resort & Beach Club in Lihu’e, will pursue other interests.
Miller said he and the three other owners of Kiahuna Golf Club are all “appreciative of the job Brad did.”
Kachel, who would only say he is between 55 and 65 when asked his age, replied, “absolutely,” when asked if he considered this a dream job.
He answered in the affirmative also when asked if he envisioned this to be, possibly, his last golf course general manager’s job.
He and wife Sherry sold their Atlanta home just before he was to leave to come to Kaua’i to take his new position, and they are looking to buy a home here, he said.
Kachel and Miller have known each other for awhile, both originally from the Dallas-Fort Worth part of Texas. Through contacts in the Club Managers Association of America, Kachel got Miller’s number, gave him a call a couple years ago, met him for breakfast, and over the years stayed in contact.
The owners of Kiahuna Golf Club hired professionals from the management and accounting firm KPMG to do some consulting work for them, and when the club general manager position opened up when Snyder announced his resignation, representatives of the same firm were hired to search for a new general manager, Miller explained.
There were 80 resumes submitted, and the owners interviewed the five finalists all across the Mainland, eventually settling on two, Kachel and one other, before flying the two finalists out for them to get a look at the Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed course.
Another of Kachel’s priorities is to beef up the club’s junior-golf program. Miller noted that Kiahuna is still the only golf course in the state with junior tees, and through today, Sunday, Nov. 20, they are hosting a statewide junior golf tournament.
As far as inviting the community to the course, they hosted a benefit tournament for accident victim Lisa Wilson last Sunday, Nov. 13, and heard lots of positive comments from people who were playing the redesigned course for the first time, or playing Kiahuna itself for the first time, Kachel and Miller said.
Many of the linksters said they’d be coming back for more rounds, impressed by the beauty and maintenance of the course, they said.
Expect the owners and operators of Kiahuna Golf Club to launch a major, annual benefit tournament, likely in 2006, though a beneficiary has not yet been selected, Kachel said.
At the Wilson benefit, Kachel immediately made his presence felt, offering double proshop credits to all golfers who hit the green on the par 3 12th hole. Of 120 golfers, just four landed on the green, but that gave that foursome credit in the pro shop, and allowed more money to be raised for Wilson’s medical expenses.
Miller and a group of investors bought Kiahuna Golf Club in April 2003, put lots of money into renovations that forced total closure of the course for several months, and an opening of just nine holes for several more months.
All 18 holes are open, the course looks better than it ever has, and Kachel is at work. “It’s prepared to run now,” he said.
Some 800 new housing units are planned around the golf course, and as that project gets further along, Kachel’s real estate background and experience will be invaluable, Miller said.
As for Kachel, who has been a golf course general manager in Colorado, Texas and California, the price of housing here didn’t give him sticker shock, as prices in California are quite similar to Kaua’i’s, he said.
“Nothing’s really shocked me yet, except the cost of a hamburger, and the price of bananas,” he said.
- Paul C. Curtis, associate editor, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or firstname.lastname@example.org