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Teams enjoy competing in footgolf tourney

By BY LOUISE ROCKETT - | Dec 31, 2020

From left, Jorge Hernandez, Junior Valdez, Christian Cardenas-Ayala, Deidre Rockett, Beth Oldenburg and substitute player Kevin Martin competed in the finals. Below, Oldenburg finishes a hole on the Kaanapali Kai Course.

KAANAPALI — At first glance, soccer and golf are a curious pairing; but add sweet saltwater breezes, fresh fairway greens, a full dash of camaraderie and a cooler full of ice, and the spicy blend is what makes the Kaanapali Golf Courses footgolf experience much like a kanikapila jam session.

Footgolf is a relatively new sport. Founded in 2008, there are conflicting stories about its beginnings, because its origin can be attributed to two countries simultaneously, both Spain and Holland.

The global term footgolf, like other words that have washed up on our shores, has been whipped, rolled and sifted. It’s now popularly referred to as soccer golf by many of its West Side players.

The only course on the island where it is played is at the Kaanapali Kai, one of the two courses at the Kaanapali Beach Resort.

Kevin Martin is the pro shop associate.

“I do a little bit of everything as far as the daily operations of the golf course. In 2015, we put in nine holes of footgolf on the first four golf holes of our Kai Course,” Martin advised.

Play is open to the public daily from 3:30 to 6 p.m. It costs $15 to play; bring your own ball or rent one for $5. Golf carts are not necessary but are an additional $15, for a grand total of $35.

“It was very popular last summer,” Martin observed. “We would get 30 to 40 people playing a day.”

“It has picked up over the five years,” Martin admitted, “now I help organize games and get the tournaments going.”

What is soccer golf?

Martin simply described it as “a fun, easy and inexpensive game. Not nearly as intimidating as actual golf.”

Beth Oldenburg, a Pukalani competitor, explained its mechanics: “Soccer golf is similar to regular golf except you are kicking a soccer ball and aiming for a bigger hole. Each game is nine holes; and the goal, like golf, is to get the ball in the hole with a minimum number of kicks. Each team has three players and competes against one different team each week. The lowest combined team score wins.”

There have been different tournaments sponsored at the Kai, among them the hotel employees, restaurant and single’s leagues. The most recent contest organized by Martin commenced in August.

“It was a double elimination. I had 16 teams — teams of three people.

“If you lose twice, you drop out of the tournament, but you can still come play. It lasted about seven weeks. So that went from August through September,” he explained.

“After seven weeks, Martin continued, “they just wanted to keep going, because they weren’t working. They wanted to keep going. The restaurants weren’t open yet, the hotels weren’t open. They wanted to do another one. I got ten teams to come back, and we did it again. Same thing: three-person teams, double elimination. The cost per team was $300. They played once a week every Friday.”

Sponsors were Down the Hatch, Roy’s, Monkey Pod Kitchen, E-foil Hawaii and Lahaina Pizza Co.

The competing teams were Better Ask Somebody, Two Chicks and an Adam Bomb, Na Koa Boyz, Weapons of Grass Destruction, Kick It Real Good, Goal Diggers and Maui Janes.

Finals were held on the afternoon of Dec. 22, with Better Ask Somebody and Two Chicks and an Adam Bomb facing off. Better Ask took first place with a combined score of 88. The Two Chicks followed with 107.

Players in the first place bracket were Christian Cardenas-Ayala, Jorge Hernandez (Pikachu) and Junior Valdez. During the seven-week contest, Keoni Miranda would stand in when needed.

The Two Chicks second place winners were Beth Oldenburg, Deidre Rockett and Adam Hulbert.

Winners in the single points division were Beth Oldenburg and Christian Cardenas-Ayala.

Oldenburg has been playing soccer for 35 years.

“Now that I am older, regular soccer is too hard on my knees, so I love that I can still kick the ball and play a sport associated with a soccer ball and friends,” she said.

Christian Cardenas-Ayala is a Lahainaluna High School soccer team vet. To the 25-year-old, soccer and soccer golf are more than a sport.

“Everything I learned about soccer and soccer golf, I apply it to life. Just like in the beginning of the season when we lost to the Na Koa Boyz, and I thought our season was done.

“I learned,” Cardenas-Ayala continued, “you just have to stay positive when things are going bad and not give up. We eventually made our way back into the winners’ bracket and ended up playing them in the semi-finals. That reminded me, just like in life, when things aren’t going your way, you get knocked down, you just have to get back up.”

His can-do attitude has taken him across the globe to Spain and to Texas, where he played on a semi-professional soccer team. He’s not giving up; soccer will be in his life, he said, until he is at least 35.

There is a consensus among the players. It’s a healthy outlook. Anyone can play soccer golf. Your weight, height and age don’t matter. It’s a fun family sport.

Oldenburg said it best.

“Soccer golf is competitive but socially fun. You play to get your own personal best score while cheering on your team and having fun hanging out with all of your friends… while enjoying the outdoors.”