Luna golf teams benefit from world-class instructors
LAHAINA — Lahainaluna High School’s golf programs, buoyed by the commitment of West Side resorts to the youth of the community, continue their drive straight down the fairway to success, as both the boys and girls teams are battling for top spots going into the final weeks of the 2011 season.
The junior golf programs at the Kapalua and Kaanapali resorts have for decades nurtured youth participation on the links, and that support has translated into a quality program for Lahainaluna athletes.
Moreover, the current leadership of these two world-renowned golf destinations — Mike Jones at Kapalua and Sutee Nitakorn at Kaanapali — have bolstered that support to further promote the game to the youngsters of the community.
Imagine being able to hone your game with daily practice rounds on the same courses that host the PGA season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions (Kapalua) or Champions Skins Game (Kaanapali) and receive guidance from the top teaching professionals of Hawaii.
This is precisely what the boys and girls are treated to as members of the Lahainaluna team. Kaanapali Head Professional Nitakorn doubles as the Luna boys coach, and in his third year he has the team battling for the Maui Interscholastic League championship.
“Our goal is always to go all the way, and I think this team is up for the challenge,” he said last week, as he prepared to send the players out for a practice round before a crucial match with league-leading Kamehameha Maui.
“They have the ability to do it.”
That effort will be spearheaded by senior team captain Jamie Horton, along with returning classmate Noah Klipstein, as well as sophomore lettermen Malu Rosenthal and Tyler Armijo.
Backing them up are seniors Kevin Galuardo, Kanaina Raymond and Chad Mallori, and freshmen Rhett Wiseman and Jake Horton.
“The strength of the team is their team unity, as they have bonded well throughout the season,” added Nitakorn.
“They are hard workers and practice well together to create depth as a team — this is our advantage.”
The MIL qualifying tournament begins on April 9 and continues through April 23 at several sites, including Waiehu, Wailea, Maui Lani and Kaanapali. The state competition will be held on the Big Island on May 9-11 at Waikoloa Village.
For the Lady Lunas, Lee Munemitsu, who brings invaluable knowledge from his experience on staff at the Kapalua Golf Academy, begins his eighth and final year guiding the team.
“We’ve got our biggest squad ever, and the team is led by three senior starters and four-year players in An An Hua, Chelsea Brink and Wilma Elefante. This program is really moving along well thanks to the girls’ effort and the support of the community, starting with the families and on through the school and Kapalua and Kaanapali golf,” he said.
“People like Mike Jones, Claude Brousseau, Athletic Director Scott Soldwisch, Sutee Nitakorn, Ed Kagiyama and Chris Noda deserve a lot of gratitude for the success of this team.”
Juniors Michiko Smith and Amanda Murphy, sophomore Bailey Pendergast and freshman Sabrina Armijo fill out the deep Lady Luna roster for 2011, which is currently tied for second in the MIL standings.
“The MIL sends 12 individual leaders to the state tournament, and Baldwin has four of those locked up. I think we’ll get at least two — if not more — of those berths,” concluded Coach Lee.