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With community support, Lahaina Junior Golf program growing

By Staff | Oct 21, 2010

Lahainaluna High School golf team members help mentor new players in the Lahaina Junior Golf program.

LAHAINA — Lahaina Junior Golf teed off its second year by doubling the number of youths — from 18 to 36 — participating in the program while solidifying a position among the wide array of available sports endeavors for kids here on the West Side.

According to Lahaina Junior Golf Director Don Rosenthal — who has guided one of Maui’s most successful youth programs with the West Maui Youth Basketball League, coming up on its 27th year — the second-year links league has grown and prospered through the dedication of the community.

“It is through the commitment and generosity of people like Mike Jones of Kapalua and Suti Nitakorn at Kaanapali that the kids from Lahaina side are able to benefit and grow with the game of golf,” said Rosenthal last week.

“Also, the support of the parents, who stepped up to the plate and helped run the tournaments we put on and shuttled the kids around, was unbelievable. We’ve been truly blessed to have these parents giving their support through their donations of food, uniforms and trophies for the kids.”

This year’s LJG program began in the summer as new participants took part in clinics at Kapalua and Kaanapali focusing on golf etiquette and gaining familiarity with carrying a bag and walking the courses.

Lahainaluna High School golf team members help mentor new players in the Lahaina Junior Golf program.

From there, the beginners moved over to the three-hole course at the Kapalua Golf Academy before graduating to the regulation venues at Kaanapali and Kapalua Resort.

“We had the more experienced kids from the program and the (Lahainaluna) high school team mentor the new players,” added Rosenthal.

“The idea was to have them learn to give back to the program that helped get them started.”

Weekly competitions followed and will lead up to the season-ending Lahaina Cup championship tournament Nov. 13-14 at Kapalua and Kaanapali.

“We’ll have an awards ceremony at the Kaanapali driving range with food compliments of the Royal Lahaina Resort and Roy’s Kahana. All the kids will receive a trophy at the ceremony, and the bracket winners will be honored, as well as the overall season points leader for the Lahaina Cup award,” explained Rosenthal.

Through Coach Don’s guidance and the expertise of a parent that is a lawyer, LJG is in the process of gaining 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, which will enable the program to apply for grants through the United States Golf Association (USGA).

Lahaina Junior Golf will also be able to apply for membership in the “Hook A Kid On Golf” program sponsored by the National Alliance for Youth Sports initiative, with the incentive goal to send a six-person team to a national tournament in Indiana this summer.

“This is an age bracket — elementary age to high school — where the kids compete in golf and also learn etiquette and rules of the game. The goal is to develop a passion for the game in the kids and also to create a pathway to a college education for them,” Rosenthal explained.

“This is all a blessing for us, and I truly believe there has been some Divine Intervention in a time of need for us. We had been limited by the bad economy, but God touched the hearts of the parents and the community to help the needs of the kids in this program,” he concluded.