ISLAND HISTORY: Bing Crosby and Toyo Shirai at Wailua Golf Course

While vacationing on Kaua‘i with his wife, Kathryn, and children Harry, Mary and Nathaniel Crosby during July 1962, popular singer, actor and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby said that the Wailua Golf Course was the best in the state of Hawai‘i and “one of the best in the world.”

“I have played all the top courses in the world, Scotland, England, South America, the United States, Canada — and Wailua has one of the most magnificent settings of all.”

On what was his first visit to Hawai‘i since the 1930s, the well-known crooner also made a legitimate claim to kama‘aina status when he noted that his great-grandfather, Nathaniel Crosby, had been captain of the clipper ship “Kingfisher,” which sailed between the Mainland and Hawai‘i in 1852.

Crosby played golf nearly every afternoon at Wailua while staying at the Coco Palms Hotel, where he participated in one of Manager Grace Guslander’s tree-planting ceremonies in which a coconut tree was planted in his honor.

Bing also planted a Chinese banyan tree at the Wailua course with the assistance of course pro Toyo Shirai, who’d been the pro there since 1946.

Shirai had recently opened the 18-hole course at Wailua, after having taken the lead on reshaping the original 9-hole course and designing the additional nine.

Shirai began his golf career as a caddy at the Wai‘alae Country Club on O‘ahu in 1929 to help support his family, and learned club-making, greens-keeping, course management, merchandising and shot-making before turning pro in 1938.

He went on to play in two U.S. Opens and was inducted into the Hawai‘i Golf Hall of Fame in 1989.

By the way, the Wailua Golf Course was established in the fall of 1920 as a 3-hole course by The Garden Island newspaper Editor Charlie Fern, banker Jim Corstorphine, James Spalding and Dan Arcia in a Lihu‘e Plantation Dairy pasture.

Incidentally, Kohala, Hawai‘i-born Dan Arcia had been the timekeeper at Makee Sugar Co. prior to becoming the first golf professional at the old nine-hole Wailua Golf Course.


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