John Williams McGrath
John Williams McGrath, 87, of Honolulu, died June 27, 2017, following a brief illness. He was born on October 22, 1929 in Brooklyn, New York City, the second child of George Patrick McGrath and Elizabeth Williams McGrath. He graduated from Amherst College in 1951 and Yale Law School in 1954. Mr. McGrath was a pioneer in resort development and golf course design in association with some of the greatest figures of the 20th Century. His Yale Law School classmate, Charles Fraser, recruited McGrath as his first hire and executive vice president in the Sea Pines Plantation venture that established the first planned community on Hilton Head Island in the early 1960s. Sea Pines was one of the first projects to combine real estate and golf and to use covenants and deed restrictions to protect the environment, and with Fraser's vision and McGrath's skillful and steady management became widely recognized as the prototype for the modern resort. During his prolific career, McGrath was directly involved in 38 resort development projects and the design, construction, planning or acquisition of 13 golf courses. Laurance Rockefeller recruited McGrath to develop Rockefeller properties on St. Croix and other projects, such as the expansion of Caneel Bay; Dorado Beach Hotel in Puerto Rico; Little Dix in the British Virgin Islands; and the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. McGrath would play a critical role in the development of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and the resort's Robert Trent Jones-designed golf course, serving with Mr. Rockefeller as one of five initial directors of the investment arm for the hotel's land holdings. In the late 1960's McGrath teamed with Yale Law School classmate, Mark McCormack, whose firm, International Management, Inc., was the most influential sports management company of the day and featured among its clients the big three of golf, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. For Arnold Palmer, McGrath negotiated the purchase of the Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando, an acquisition that Palmer would later acknowledge to McGrath had been "one of the outstanding events of my life." During this time, he established his own company, Course Design, with Francis "Frank" Duane, to design and build golf courses as he had successfully mastered at Sea Pines and the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. In 1970, Course Design formed an association with Arnold Palmer which helped establish Palmer as one of the leading figures in golf course design. McGrath received a lifetime honorary membership from the Urban Land Institute in recognition of his accomplishments in resort development and golf course design. McGrath was a decorated scholar and athlete at Amherst College and vigorously supported the college for more than sixty years. In 1986, McGrath married Mary Philpotts and made Hawaii his permanent home. Mr. McGrath is survived his wife, Mary Philpotts McGrath, his sister, Anne Kilbourn McGrath Caretto, seven nieces and nephews: Mary Kilbourn, Tim Kilbourn, Anne Bonington, Libby Graham, Peggy Sherman, Cathy McGrath and Rob McGrath, and godchild Eleasa "Jamie" Bielawa. His brother, Robert Gregory McGrath, died in 2009. A private celebration of life for family and close friends will be held at a later date.
Our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the deceased