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Lahaina Junior Golf Association keiki benefit from world-class instruction

By Staff | Jul 14, 2016

Seventy youngsters participated in the Lahaina Junior Golf Association program last year.

LAHAINA – The Lahaina Junior Golf Association has been around for a relatively short eight years, but in that span the program has paved the way for youngsters to find a high-quality introduction to the game. Moreover, the LJGA experience has led to college opportunities for several West Side athletes.

The organization is ready to tee off for the 2016 season with registration underway to the first deadline on Aug. 1 (visit www.lahainajuniorgolf.us for forms and more information).

Indeed, the gracious contribution by the Kaanapali and Kapalua Golf Resorts – two of the world’s top destinations – to the development of youth interest in the game has spawned a growing positive energy that includes a pathway to a college education for several West Maui youngsters.

Michiko Smith, Malu Rosenthal, Aaron Kunitomo and Jamie Horton are among the LJGA members that parlayed their training at Kapalua and Kaanapali – as well as the distinct opportunity to play the top-flight courses at Kahekili, Wailea, Pukalani and others here on the Valley Isle – into college scholarships.

For some of these kids, it was the first chance their families were given to attend a four-year university.

This kind of success for organizations like LJGA is highly dependent upon quality leadership, and Lahaina Junior Golf is blessed with a board of directors with the highest of credentials.

The program is led by Dandy Don Rosenthal, the stalwart youth sports leader who developed the West Maui Youth Basketball League into the top youth hoops program in Maui County (and became a model for recreation activities across the state) and was part of the founding team of the LJGA.

Serving as vice president is Kaanapali Golf Professional Sutee Nitakorn; the secretary is Anna Kanaha, who also serves as president of West Maui Little League Baseball; and the treasurer is Jim Peterson, another longtime contributor here on the West Side.

The board of directors includes Ben Hongo, director of the Kapalua Golf Academy; Lahainaluna High School Athletic Director Scott Soldwisch; renowned golf instructor Dave Havens; West Maui Little League Baseball Director Jason Kanaha; Judy Peterson; Jennifer and Peter Villatora; Joel Navarro; and Don Guzman.

The program grew from 13 members in its first year to 70 in 2015.

“Anna Kanaha is the backbone of Lahaina Junior Golf,” beamed Don Rosenthal last week. “She does all the organizing – all the behind the scenes stuff. And Dave Havens has been a great help with the program.”

“Of course, we are so very thankful to Kapalua and Kaanapali for allowing us to hold matches and practice at these outstanding facilities,” he continued. “LahainaTown Action Committee has also been very generous with proceeds from their golf fundraiser going to the program.”

Rosenthal noted that there will be golf clinics throughout July leading up to the start of the season at the end of August running through mid-November. The LJGA will hold an informational meeting to discuss the organization and the upcoming schedule in August.

“Matches will be held on Wednesdays and Sundays, with teaching clinics during the week. We’re hoping that the kids will get out and practice on their own and use the matches and clinics to learn the basics and as added, advanced training. We’re also hoping that more girls will sign up this year, as this is a great opportunity for these kids to find a pathway to college by way of the game of golf,” Rosenthal concluded.