New program will teach juniors with a passion for golf
LAHAINA — Long about 25 years ago, Coach Don Rosenthal and his band of merry men of the West Maui Youth Athletic Association formed a basketball league for kids.
The idea was to ask from the rich and give to the children in the form of a hoops league focused on maximum participation, sportsmanship and teamwork.
Fast forward to the present, and the West Maui Youth Basketball League founded by Rosenthal and his buddies has flourished into a thriving hub of youth activity that has become the winter highlight for the community.
Each year, more than 350 boys and girls participate in the program that has become a model for positive youth athletic experiences across the State of Hawaii.
Now, Rosenthal is taking another proactive step into the future for our keiki by forming the Lahaina Junior Golf program.
Working in conjunction with the Kapalua and Kaanapali golf resorts, Uncle Don has secured the sponsorship of the West Maui Parks and Recreation Department, as well as the trusty West Maui Youth Athletic Association, to bring kids to the links.
According to Commish Rosenthal, the inaugural season of the Lahaina Junior Golf league will tee off on Wednesday, Sept. 9, with nine-hole matches at the world-renowned Kapalua Bay Course and Kaanapali Kai and Royal Courses. Play will continue through Oct. 21 with a 36-hole championship event.
The West Side has earned a sterling reputation for PGA, LPGA, and Senior PGA Tour golf events at the Kaanapali and Kapalua venues over the years, and now youth participation will be extended with the Lahaina Junior Golf program.
Kapalua and Kaanapali Junior Golf have for years been positive forces for youth, and now the new league will align itself with that energy.
“We hope to feed off of those programs to make junior golf grow over here,” he said.
Rosenthal added that both Mike Jones and Sutee Nitakorn, the directors of golf operations at Kapalua and Kaanapali, respectively, have been tremendously supportive of the new program.
“Both Nutee and Mike are really excited about the league and see it as having perfect timing as a good thing for the community, the kids and Lahainaluna High School,” Rosenthal said.
“It is a great opportunity for these kids to gain access to two of the premiere facilities in the state, and in the world, at Kapalua and Kaanapali for practice and coaching from the professionals there.”
Rosenthal also recognized UFO Parasail, Leilani’s on the Beach restaurant, The Sheraton Maui Resort and One Main Plaza for their support.
“We’re working on getting more support, so that we can get more and more kids involved. We want to be able to offer this program to any kid with the passion for golf. Hopefully, things will grow,” Rosenthal explained.
The roster for the inaugural season for the Lahaina Junior Golf league includes Chelsea Brink, AnAn Hua, Kayla Martinez, Wilma Elefante, Ezra Macadangdang, Tristan Villa, James Horton, Chris Shimomura, Malu “Da Shark” Rosenthal, Chasen Bahouth, Cooper Vanderlaan, Tyler Okimoto, James Foster, Stephen Foster, Brandon Galarita, Noah Klipstein, Andrew Kunitomo and Aaron Kunitomo, with Lahainaluna Athletic Director Scott Soldwisch acting as course marshal.
“These are all kids from the fourth grade on up to seniors in high school, and we’re looking for the older kids to act as mentors for the younger ones. Most of them are from the Lahainaluna team, but we want children from all schools to come out,” concluded Rosenthal.