Writing from Chicago
Monday, March 28, 2016
Gary Planos almost always ended a conversation with a question.
“Do you need anything?”
Now, his legion of friends are asking why he died at 62, so many years too young.
Planos was found motionless Sat., March 26, at his home in Kapalua, Hawaii, by landscapers who came over to work on his lawn. The cause of death is believed to be a heart attack.
That’s an additional shock, for Gary Planos had the biggest heart in golf. As the senior vice president of the Kapalua resort facility and the tournament director of the PGA Tour’s Tournament of Champions, Planos knew everyone in golf, a tight family where egos are large and grudges are kept.
Nobody ever had a bad word to say about Gary Planos. As word of his death spread on Sunday, kind words and memories of him came from all corners of the game.
“There was not a finer person in the game of golf,” Golf Channel producer Brandt Packer wrote on Twitter Sunday.
“He was always looking to help any way he could,” Rickie Fowler added, using Planos’ well-earned nickname of “Mr. Kapalua.”
“One of the all-time good guys,” ESPN’s Gene Wojciechowski said. “Kapalua was Kapalua because of Gary Planos. Never met a nicer guy.”
Said Morgan Pressel, winner of the LPGA’s tournament at Kapalua in 2008, “My trips to Kapalua will never be the same.”
A caddie at Westmoreland who earned an Evans Scholarship to Illinois, Planos arrived in Hawaii in the mid-1970s with $7,000 in travelers checks and no job. Hired by Chicago native Mark Rolfing, he found one at Kapalua in the bag room. He made $3 an hour and could play the course. Hard work and imaginative thinking moved him up the ladder quickly.
“Westmoreland was my E ticket to Kapalua,” Planos said when the club celebrated its centennial.
Planos stayed close to the Evans program. He was a WGA director, and was usually on hand during the Western Open / BMW Championship, working either the practice range or visiting players in the locker room, reminding them of the beauty of the paradise he worked and lived in.
Baseball great Joe Torre, who has a house on the Kapalua property, would hang out with Planos during the tournament. On the turn of the millennium, he needed 15 rooms at the Ritz-Carlton for Yankees pitcher Andy Pettite for New Year’s Eve. It couldn’t be done, execpt Planos did it.
Planos could always do it. Arranging rides on a whale-watching boat or something similarly exotic were all part of his anything-is-possible mantra. Even after Kapalua outsourced resort and tournament operations in 2011, Planos was the go-to guy for many.
“Gary is Kapalua,” Steve Stricker said then.
“He had the wonderful ability to make everyone feel so special,” current TofC tournament director Nancy Cross told The Maui News. “I was greatly honored to be a part of his team.
“Everybody loved Gary. Pros, agents, media – everybody.”
Services were undetermined at press time.
– Tim Cronin