Volunteers of Year

The Chester Kahapea Volunteer of the Year and Volunteer Chair of the Year awards are bestowed annually to outstanding Sony Open volunteers who have demonstrated selflessness, aloha and made a sacrificial effort for the tournament. Tournament vice chairs, volunteer division heads and volunteer chairs select the honorees to receive these prestigious awards. Congratulations to our 2017 honorees!

2017 Volunteer of the Year
Mathew Butler

Mathew Butler initially came to volunteer at the Sony Open in Hawaii because it was a way for his family to bond and he really enjoyed riding golf carts. That was 10 years ago. Now Butler is 20, majoring in mechanical engineering at University of Hawaii and a junior on the sailing team. He and his family began volunteering in the Parking Committee. After a couple years, the Butlers moved from pointing the way for people to park and taking the odd ride on a golf cart to Ropes and Stakes, setting up the course for spectators. “We tried it one year and it was great,” Butler says. “It was cool being out on the course and seeing it transform.”

He rose quickly within the ranks. For the last two years he has been the back nine captain. He comes in a day early to help Ropes & Stakes volunteer chair Cameron Barnes set up tee and green markers. The next day, beginning at 6:30 a.m., he directs his crew of volunteers, many of who are Navy SEALS as they put in the ropes and stakes. During tournament week, the committee rotates shifts. Butler, who graduated Cum Laude from Mililani High School, comes to Waialae Country Club between college classes. The week ends with takedown Sunday, which usually lasts some 12 hours.

“The early appeal of volunteering was driving golf carts,” says Butler, who now drives a large gas-powered cart filled with stakes. “Then I started moving up and getting more responsibility and that appealed to me. The golf cart is still fun to drive, but it’s not necessarily the reason I do it now. It’s a fun thing to do as a family.”

Butler doesn’t even golf, and neither do his parents, George and Teri. Older brother Nathan volunteered until he moved away and younger brother Andrew is now involved. “I don’t know why we latched on to it, but we just did. And the people that do it are amazing.” 

2017 Volunteer Chair of the Year
Carl Nowack

Carl Nowack and his golfing buddies have been volunteering at Hawaii’s professional golf tournaments for 15 years. For the last six years at the Sony Open in Hawaii, Nowack has worked hard so other volunteers can play hard. As Chair of the Volunteer Golf Tournament, played at Waialae Country Club a week after every Sony Open, Nowack starts tracking down prize donations in September.  “Every year we are pretty comparable in gifts — rounds of golf, nice gift certificates, goodie bags full of stuff." After long days and nights contacting potential donors, picking up donations and packing gift bags, Nowack and his crew sit in the cart barn from sunrise during Sony Open tournament week to collect all the entries and fees. The week after the tournament he sets up his event, prints out scorecards and rules and takes care of last-minute dropouts and replacements, balancing the books each night. He and his committee are back on the course at 5 a.m. the day of the volunteer tournament for check-in, then transition to the clubhouse to help with lunch, goodie bags and prizes.

“People used to ask me why I worked so hard and I asked myself that question,” said Nowack, “I didn’t know about the charities when I started. We were all golf buddies helping each other out. Then we found out about the charities and you get to know all those people and it’s hard to stop.”

Harder still to stay away from the volunteer family he has come to enjoy so much. “Some of the people I see all year,” Nowack says. “I’ve made good friends that I see socially and play golf with. This is a new group of friends. It just works.”