Lahaina Junior Golf Association a pathway to success in the sport
LAHAINA – The Lahaina Junior Golf Association was formed just seven years ago, but the organization has clearly established itself in that short span as an elite entity in promoting the sport for the youth of Maui.
Buoyed by the leadership of veteran community activists such as Don Rosenthal, as well as the County of Maui Department of Parks and Recreation and the extreme generosity of the world-class Kaanapali and Kapalua golf courses, the LJGA has moved to the forefront as a pathway to success within the sport and, perhaps more importantly, to higher education.
While providing a venue for children ages six to 18 to receive professional instruction and play at several of the world’s outstanding golf courses at Kaanapali and Kapalua, LJGA kids also have found a structured pathway to a college education.
Through their participation in this program, dozens of youthful Maui golfers have parlayed that experience into a college education while continuing to compete in the sport they have grown to love.
A scholarship program sponsored by LahainaTown Action Committee, and a group known as “Da Game” led by Rohn Stark, have been established as well.
The inaugural recipients were Marissa Uradomo and Malu Rosenthal. Most recently, Lahainaluna High School graduates Lance Ito and Ennah Cabading received the $1,000 scholarships. The sponsors also fund a travel stipend program that finances trips that allow LJGA kids to experience off-island competition and tournaments.
“Spare for Change” is a program started by Kaanapali Golf Professional David Havens to help youngsters get equipment and guidance in the game. Mike Jones and Suti Nitakorn, the directors of golf at Kaanapali and Kapalua, respectively, founded the PGA Junior Series this summer, which promoted non-competitive rounds for youths 12 and under with a passion for the game. The events were played at Wailea, Kamehameha and the two West Side venues.
The list of LJGA members that have used their golf swing to attend college includes the four mentioned above along with Lahainaluna alumni Chris Shimomura, Michiko Smith, Wilma Elefante and James Horton; Kamehameha Schools Maui graduate Aaron Kunitomo; and future standouts Caitlyn and Caylan Villatora from Lahainaluna, and Maui Interscholastic League Player of the Year Jazmin Cabajar from Maui High.
Current LJGA President Jones reported that registration for the upcoming season will run through Aug. 15. It’s open to all interested boys and girls ages six to 18.
The schedule of events begins on Sept. 13 and runs through Dec. 13, culminating with match play and stroke play championship rounds and an awards ceremony.
Inexperienced players and keiki 12 and under will play on Wednesdays, while older and more experienced participants will hit the courses on Sundays. All rounds will be played at the Kapalua and Kaanapali facilities, and the LJGA kids will also receive instruction from teaching pros David Havens and Ben Hongo.
Jones is assisted by Vice President Nitakorn (Kaanapali golf director), Secretary Laura Jones, Treasurer Jim Peterson and Board Members Scott Soldwisch, Paul Brown, Joel Navarro, Judy Peterson, Havens and Peter Villatora.
Mike Jones pointed to the LJGA mission statement as the guiding element of the program. It reads: “To provide today’s youth with an opportunity to experience the game of a lifetime. The Lahaina Junior Golf Association will commit to the creation and maintenance of a golf program geared to introduce youngsters to the game of golf and exposing them to valuable life skills such as respect, integrity, character, and honor.”