Hawaii's golf media relations whiz
Ann Miller / Special to the Star-Advertiser
Bill Bachran, who was still working as the Sony Open in Hawaii historian last year at age 86, died April 27 with wife Laurie by his side.
Bachran grew up in New York, arrived in Hawaii for his honeymoon in 1949 and never left. Laurie had not been back to Hawaii since she left for college, where she met Bachran in a production of "The Mikado."
The first of six children arrived the next year, on the day Bachran was assigned by the Honolulu Advertiser to do interviews on the Lurline ocean liner, stuck here during a six-month Matson strike.
His first subject -- retired admiral Bill Halsey -- told him "no comment, kid." His second was singer/actor Mario Lanza, who had just made his first film and was "hiding out" on the ship. Bachran handed him a cigar to celebrate the birth of his son and got a great interview, along with tickets to Lanza's concert.
Bachran worked in the media, public relations -- with Pan Am, Hawaiian and United -- and with 141 Hawaii, which has run the PGA Tour event at Waialae Country Club since it became the Sony Open in 1999.
For more than 40 years, Bachran ran the Hawaiian Open/Sony Open media room. He moved out to the course in 2012 to serve as historian for the spectators, and usually could answer questions off the top of his head.
Between his ebullient personality and jobs that offered intrigue, Bachran became friends with William Holden -- Bachran called him "Bill" -- and Frank Sinatra, Norman Rockwell, Andre Kostelanetz, Gary Cooper and John Wayne, and golfers Arnold Palmer, Lanny Wadkins and Hale Irwin.
Bachran also was a dance partner in the live TVShow, produced by J Akuhead Pupule, and helped Lou Robbins and Tom Moffatt do public relations for acts such as the Jackson Five, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Sergio Mendes, Wayne Newton, the Smothers Brothers and Earth, Wind and Fire.
Bachran never actually played golf, but took up tennis in his 50s and was an accomplished player with a healthy respect for rules and the history of the game.
Those qualities served him well during his years working Hawaii's premier golf tournament. So did his ability to speak Japanese, particularly when Isao Aoki won the 1983 championship with a stunning eagle on his final swing.
"The Sony/Hawaiian Open was his life for the last 40 years or so," said son Greg. "He wasn't a golfer. I think he tried a few times, but it's a hard game to play and master. But he knew most everything about the game except how to play."
What Bachran also knew, and was proud to tell anyone who even broached the subject, was how happy he was with his family and life in Hawaii.
"I've been blessed, I'll tell you," Bachran said last year, just before his retirement. "God has really lifted me up. ... I enjoy being a haole who learned to live the life of a Hawaiian. There have been so many positive things."
Along with wife Laurie -- Mrs. Hawaii 1963 -- Bachran leaves sons Christopher, Timothy and Greg; daughters Celia Rawlins, Rebecca Salzer and Mari Stewart; 10 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.
The family is planning a Celebration of Life, Aug. 3, from 4 to 7 p.m., at Waialae Country Club.
Our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the deceased