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Lahaina Junior Golf Association flourishing with community support

By Staff | Jul 25, 2013

Don Rosenthal (center) said he is really proud of the Lahaina Junior Golf Association and its community partners.

LAHAINA – In some 40 years as an advocate for youth athletics here on Maui, Don Rosenthal has seen it all.

The longtime Lahaina resident has had stints with Little League Baseball, West Maui Youth flag football, and, before he assumed his current volunteer position as president of the Lahaina Junior Golf Association, he made perhaps his greatest impact as the spearhead of the West Maui Youth Basketball League for 30 years.

Now into his fifth year leading the LJGA organization, Rosenthal today marvels at the gold mine of community contributions being made by the supporters of his newest affiliation.

“I can’t believe the quality of people that we have on the board of directors of Lahaina Junior Golf,” he stated last week.

“These people are the cream of the crop in several areas – not only golf – so it all has been a real blessing and has made the development of the program a real positive endeavor. It’s all been said before many times, but it really applies here, that these people are doing a good thing for the kids of the community.”

A quick review of the board of directors of LJGA and it is clear to see and understand Rosenthal’s perspective. The vice presidents of the program are Mike Jones and Suti Nitakorn, who just happen to be the directors of golf at two of the world’s premier resorts at Kapalua and Kaanapali, respectively.

The secretary is Anna Kanaha, a dedicated advocate of youth sports and a person that Rosenthal calls “the backbone of Lahaina Junior Golf.”

Treasurer Jim Peterson has been an assistant with the youth basketball program throughout Rosenthal’s tenure in that program.

The quality guidance of the organization doesn’t stop there. The board of directors includes Judy Peterson, Jason Kanaha, Scott Soldwisch, Laura Jones, Tom Bell, Ben Hongo, Dave Havens, Don Guzman and Peter Villatora, who are all professionals in a diverse field of employment that includes education, resort management, engineering, law, and, of course, golf.

But the common thread among them is that they all have a sincere desire to contribute to the youth of the community and to promote the game that they love.

Rosenthal reported that LJGA held its annual selection review to fill out the roster for the upcoming season.

“We had over 70 applicants for the 40 spots we’ll have for the league, and we still have more applications coming in. We’ll put the names of the applicants who didn’t make the first selection on the membership list, so that they can fill any spot that opens up,” he said.

“Our season will run from the third week of August to near the end of November and will include six tournaments of match play and stroke play, with all the competitions scoring points leading to the winner of the Lahaina Cup, which is our version of the FedEx Cup on the pro circuit. During the season, there will be clinics and training – especially for the newer members – in etiquette and things like how to carry the bag on the course.

“There will be nine-hole tournaments for the beginners on Saturdays and competitions for the intermediate and advanced players on Sundays.”

Tournaments will be held at Kaanapali and Kapalua, as well as practice sessions with Hongo, Havens and other pros at the resorts. The members will also be afforded free play after 4 p.m. at both courses.

“I’m just really proud of this organization,” said Rosenthal. “This year, we started a scholarship program that will honor two graduating high school students with $1,000 grants, and we’ve also been able to develop a travel stipend fund that helps the kids travel to tournaments on other islands and on the Mainland. Our appreciation goes out to the community for helping with these programs and to the LahainaTown Action Committee for their help.”

He noted that his grandson, Malu Rosenthal, and Marissa Uradomo were the recipients of the inaugural scholarships, and also that former LJGA members Michiko Smith, Chris Shimomura and Aaron Kunitomo are all attending college and playing golf for the teams at the respective schools.