Longtime LPGA tournament volunteer Dave Hamada was nicknamed “LPGA Super Fan” by a Tour player years ago, and not surprisingly, that tag has stuck.
A native of Hawaii, Hamada has attended more than 180 LPGA tournaments and has volunteered at more than 110 events throughout the nation. He has volunteered for as many as eight events each year since the 1990s.
Specifically, Hamada says he has traveled to 35 different golf courses in 16 states, has worked on “almost every volunteer committee” and has chaired several different volunteer committees at different tournaments.
When asked by an Illinois newspaper reporter nine years ago why he travels all over the country on his own dime to volunteer, Hamada said, “The thing that makes it rewarding is it really helps somebody and you get to meet very nice people every day.”
Hamada moved to the Los Angeles area in 1965 and attended LPGA golf tournaments held around Southern California. He played in the pro-am tournament of the 1979 Sunstar Classic at Rancho Park in L.A.
“I played with pro golfer Penny Pulz because one of my co-worker’s relatives was on the staff of Sunstar and she encouraged me to play,” Hamada said. “That was my first encounter with [LPGA Hall of Famer] Nancy Lopez, who won the tournament that year.”
Hamada first worked as a tournament volunteer at the 1984 Women’s Kemper Open at the Royal Kaanapali golf course on Maui, where he grew up. This time, a classmate’s mother, who was the event’s volunteer coordinator, asked him to work as a course marshal.
“Little did I know that it was the beginning of many other adventures in the future,” he said.
His next volunteer position was in tournament transportation at the 2001 Office Depot Championship at L.A.’s Wilshire Country Club. During that event, Hamada met and drove players to and from the course each day and struck up new friendships.
“I met many players and most notably, [Hall of Fame member] Betsy King, who convinced me to go to her LPGA tournament at Berkleigh Country Club in Reading, Pa.,” Hamada said. “That began my travel experiences for the next 20 years.”
It was also the same year that Hamada had booked a flight to Portland, Ore., for the Safeway Classic, which was canceled due to the terror attacks on Sept. 11.
Tournament organizers quickly learned that the retired chemical engineer and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) graduate was handy with numbers, so he was often placed in scoring areas to volunteer or helped manage scoring leaderboards.
“After I added the scorecard of one player, she said it was the fastest she had ever seen,” said Hamada, who worked as an engineer at the City of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for more than 31 years.
The affable volunteer became a familiar face among players, players’ parents, caddies, LPGA staff members and LPGA rules officials. One year, he managed to attend 17 different LPGA tournaments throughout the nation.
Hamada struck up a friendship with former LPGA touring pro Rachel Hetherington of Australia, who gave him tickets to events where he did not volunteer. He also walked many rounds with then-young professional Paula Creamer and her parents and enjoyed watching Morgan Pressel and Brittany Lincicome compete during their tournament rounds.
His friendships on Tour paid off for one LPGA rules official, whom he met during the staffer’s inaugural tournament assignment in Naples, Fla. During one trip through Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), the official inadvertently left his laptop at the airport’s TSA Checkpoint. Hamada was asked to retrieve the left-behind laptop, which he was able to return to the owner.
Hamada took early retirement in 1998. He volunteered for a variety of projects at the Arcadia Fire Department and Arcadia Police Department for 20 years in the Greater Los Angeles community.
During construction of new offices for each department, he took photographs several times a week, which the fire and police captains used for presentations. And for years, he has entered about 1,000 parking tickets each month into the police department’s data base, while also keeping track of all the departments’ volunteer hours for monthly and annual reports.
While Hamada seems naturally inclined to volunteer his time, he also truly enjoys golf, which made his interest in the LPGA Tour even more meaningful. At his best as an amateur, he played to a 6-handicap and posted a career-best, even-par score of 72. He also once recorded a 59 on an executive par-64 course and scored his only hole-in-one with a 1-iron on a 180-yard shot during a club tournament.
Hamada was the 1970 club champion at Los Amigos Golf Club in Downey, Calif., following an 18-hole playoff after the first 54 holes were deadlocked, but by 1990, he stopped playing golf due to “physical issues.”
That did not stop his ability to volunteer, however, nor dampen his willingness to find other ways to enjoy golf.
One year at the LPGA State Farm Classic in Springfield, Ill., several individuals at the tournament told Hamada to go buy a local newspaper. When he obtained a copy of the State Journal-Register, he saw a half-page photo of himself walking across the monster 18th-hole scoreboard while performing his volunteer duties.
“I was also given copies of the newspaper by a few others,” he admitted.
In looking back at his lengthy volunteer career, Hamada holds fond memories at many tournament stops throughout the years, but the LPGA events in his native Hawaii are always special, because that’s where his journey began. He also enjoys returning each year to the Tour’s Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.
“That’s a favorite tournament because it is very well run by Octagon and the people there are so friendly,” he said.
Hamada is one of those individuals who finds interest and enjoyment in whatever task he is given, but he is also one of those volunteers who does not want, nor seek out individual honors or awards. For him, the reward is simply in giving his time and sharing the experience with others.
“There are many deserving volunteers who work very hard for many years at these LPGA tournaments,” he said.
And Hamada is certainly one of them.
The AXA LPGA Volunteer Award program will designate a top volunteer nominee at each of the LPGA’s tournaments. At the conclusion of the 2020 season, the name of one volunteer will be drawn in a random selection. That winning volunteer’s tournament charity will be awarded $10,000 on behalf of AXA.
AXA XL, the property & casualty and specialty risk division of AXA, provides insurance and risk management products and services for mid-sized companies through to large multinationals, and reinsurance solutions to insurance companies globally. AXA XL proudly serves as the Official Property/Casualty, Reinsurance, Auto and Professional Liability Insurance Sponsor of the LPGA. Additionally AXA XL has partnered with the LPGA on a season-long AXA LPGA Volunteer Service Award which recognizes tournament volunteers who have exemplified the spirit of volunteerism and gone above and beyond expectations. For more information, please visit www.axaxl.com