SACRAMENTO – Alice Kurotori didn’t quite know what to make of that Christmas Day years ago when her husband, Tom Kurotori, gave her a set of golf clubs, golf bag, golf cart and also set of lessons at the Bing Maloney Golf Complex in Sacramento.
“It was everything you need to play golf with,” Alice Kurotori recalled.
Alice remembers doing all she could to save and manage money at the time, to try and help out her husband, who had a business. She also had never played golf before. Her immediate reaction to all those gifts?
“I was so upset. I never forgot it for a long time. I hated this stupid game. You just get to the ball and hit it and go after it and then hit it again. It’s really a stupid game,” she said, looking back on that time in her life, when she was in her mid-50s.
“My husband wanted me to learn and take golf seriously. I was so angry. Here I’m trying to save money for him. And he goes and wastes it on this stupid game. Nobody played golf in our family.” Alice finally gave in and took to golf, going to Bing Maloney for lessons. It was there that she learned about the golf swing and the game. There was something else.
“The teacher I had was the head pro and I found out that he loved music,” said Alice.
As a result, a connection was formed, as Alice taught music after graduating from University of the Pacific in Stockton with a degree in music in 1949. She later got a teaching credential and also gave piano lessons. At one time, she was involved in ballet. She started out in college at Sacramento City College.
At first, she questioned herself in golf, as it was a tough start for Alice.
“When you’re a beginner, it’s hard. I couldn’t hit the stupid ball. And I thought, ‘Why am I doing this?’ ” she said. One day, everything changed for Alice.
“When I was taking lessons, I saw a little old lady on the driving range. She hits it beautifully. I thought, ‘Well, if that lady can do it, I can do it, too.’ So, that’s when I got serious,” she said. As Alice put it, she was hooked on the game.
“I had to see her do it. It was a challenge to me. I thought, ‘I’m going to learn how to hit it.’ And I learned how to hit it.”
Alice Kurotori has been playing golf for years and years, all around Sacramento – at Haggin Oaks Golf Complex, at Bartley Cavanaugh Golf Course, at Bing Maloney Golf Complex, at William Land Golf Course, at Ancil Hoffman Golf Course in Carmichael. She is also a former member at Elkhorn Golf Club in Stockton.
“As small as I am, I used to hit the ball long,” she said. “I used to dance before and I was almost a professional dancer. So, I had that timing.”
Kurotori is a resident of the Pocket-Greenhaven area of Sacramento. She is a member of the William Land Park Women’s Golf Club. It’s a nine-hole group that plays on Thursdays. Managed by Morton Golf, LLC, William Land Golf Course is a nine-hole layout – ranging from 1,090 yards from the Yellow tees to 3,015 yards from the Black tees – and is located at William Land Park. The historic course, built in 1924 and designed by Sam Whiting and William Locke, has one par-5, five par-4s and three par-3s. The William Land Golf Course, according to its website, www.williamlandgc.com, was the first golf course in Sacramento.
“Today, the 9-hole golf course also offers a great short game practice area that includes target greens, bunkers, and a tee area for wedge practice,” the website points out.
The William Land Park Women’s Golf Club has 23 members – the oldest of whom is Kurotori, who turns 96 on Nov. 30. She is a longtime member of the club.
“I’m in my 80s and she’s my role model,” said JoAnne Nash, the captain of the William Land Park Women’s Golf Club.
“Golf is a nice game, to keep you mentally alert and active,” Nash added.
Pat Belke, a member of the club, said: “I have bragged about her to all my children and all my friends, because I’ve never in my life met somebody like her.”
The William Land Park Women’s Golf Club had a birthday party for Kurotori on Thursday, Nov. 17 after playing their weekly nine-hole event. There were 16 members who turned out. They sang “Happy Birthday” to Kurotori and presented her with cards and a gift – a pair of Skechers golf shoes.
“I’m just pleased. We had a nice day. A big turnout. We had 16 members play today,” said Nash.
GoodDay Sacramento, from KOVR-TV, the CBS affiliate in Sacramento, was on hand to cover the event.
The party was organized by Marcy Maeda-Imai, one of the club’s members.
“Today is a special day. I coordinated this for her,” said Maeda-Imai. “It was nice, because we had a pretty big turnout today. I wanted to make sure we recognize Alice and how special she is and how much of an inspiration she is to everybody.”
Kurotori also has one of the prettiest golf swings of anyone at William Land Golf Course. “Alice is consistent, with such a beautiful swing,” said Maeda-Imai. “She was giving me tips when I first started. Alice hits the ball right down the middle. She’s sharp and quick witted. She is just amazing. She’s fun to play with. She tells you where your ball is. She finds it. Just amazing.
“She’s always positive. She jokes.”
Kurotori believes in getting daily exercise. She gets out of the house, as she takes her Miniature Pinscher, Fred Astaire, out on walks. She also joins the William Land Park Women’s Golf Club each week for a round of golf.
“If it’s cold or too hot, we still come out and they maintain their scores really well,” said Nash.
Another key, said Kurotori, is not to worry about your golf swing, not to over-think it.
“It’s tough to get old – remember that. But while you’re alive, you’ve got to do the best you can. So, I exercise and I come out with them (William Land Park Women’s Golf Club). I enjoy the company. That’s why I come here. I need to get out and meet people. That’s the most important thing. I think at my age, that and exercise are the most important thing. They keep me going – all these lovely people that are here, they keep me going.”
As she looked out at the course from the patio area, near the clubhouse, Kurotori remembers being able to hit a 7-iron to reach a par-3 hole in regulation when she was younger. Now she is hitting a 3-wood,
“Three-wood is hard to hit, but I don’t want to use a driver, because it’s going to go way out someplace,” said Kurotori.
“I’m not playing that well anymore. But I need to come out. When you get old, you get so tired and you don’t have the strength.”
Nov. 17 was the club’s final event of the year. The club will start back up in January. Two other members of the club, Georgella Burnette-Ellis and Stephanie Trenck, can’t say enough about Kurotori’s game.
“I’m so happy that she’s a member of this club. She’s incredible,” said Burnette-Ellis, a member of the William Land Park Women’s Golf Club for 50 years. “I’m just always amazed at how well she still hits the ball and scores well. She hits the ball straight. She’s accurate. She putts very well. She has a nice form. She plays good golf. The thing about golf, if you’re off for a month and you haven’t played, it doesn’t come back that easy. Alice stays with it. I don’t care if it’s 20 years ago, 30 years ago – her form has not changed.”
Trenck said: “Ballet is what she said has really enabled her to maintain her coordination. She has a very, very good swing. The motion is very good. It’s a classic golf swing off the tee. She makes good contact with the ball.”
Kurotori had a hole-in-one at Elkhorn Golf Club years ago. She remembers it being a foggy day and playing in a foursome.
“I was hitting it longer then. I thought it was going toward the center. I looked behind the hole. We couldn’t find the ball, all four of us,” Kurotori recalled. “I thought that it couldn’t have gone in the hole. But I looked, and there it was.”
Alice Kurotori took piano lessons in camp.
Alice Kurotori is originally from San Francisco. She and her family moved to the Rancho Cordova area.
She has two daughters: Sherrie Morimoto and Edie Kurotori. Alice Kurotori and her family were at a camp, operated by the War Relocation Authority, at Tule Lake, CA.
According to National Park Service, at www.nps.gov:
“Tule Lake was one of the 10 camps operated by the War Relocation Authority (WRA) from May 27, 1942, to March 20, 1946 – the period of Japanese-American incarceration where 110,000 Japanese-Americans were forcibly removed from their homes and communities and incarcerated.
“Tule Lake became the largest of the 10 WRA camps, with a peak incarcerated population of 18,789 people, and a total of 29,840 individuals were incarcerated at Tule Lake over the lifetime of the camp’s operation. It comprised 7,400 acres and contained more than 1,700 structures.”
“Tule Lake was the last WRA camp to close, remaining in operation seven months after World War II ended.”
“I went into camp. I used to take piano lessons. I had the best teacher. He was a concert pianist. He was there. And I took lessons from him. And I learned dancing.”
Tom Kurotori passed away in 2008.
- Marty James is a freelance writer who makes his home in Napa. He retired on June 4, 2019, after spending 40 years as a sports writer, sports editor and executive sports editor for the Napa Valley Register, a daily newspaper in Napa County. He is a 1979 graduate of Sacramento State and a member of the California Golf Writers & Broadcasters Association. He was inducted into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame in 2016.