With strong community support, the Lahainaluna High School golf program is thriving
LAHAINA – The Lahainaluna High School golf program continues to thrive under the dedicated guidance of its coaches and the extreme generosity of the West Side’s world-class resort courses. With both the Kaanapali and Kapalua Resorts opening their fairways to the youth of Maui, and mentors such as Peter Villatora and Sutee Nitakorn providing guidance and inspiration for the student athletes, Luna golf continues to grow.
For first-year Lady Luna coach Peter Villatora and wife Jennifer, the formula is simple. Over the previous ten years, Lahaina Junior Golf and the Lahainaluna program have provided a pathway in the game for their twin daughters, Caitlyn and Caylyn, to attend college on the Mainland.
“We want to give back to the community all that the community has given to us,” said Coach Peter last week. “It is really cool to see so many kids getting into the game with Lahaina Junior Golf and then moving up to the high school team.”
Indeed, the entire nine-player Lady Luna roster for 2017 is made up of student athletes that came up through LJG. The returnees include juniors Hanna Valencia, Kristeleia Bettencourt and Yasmine Chadli, and sophomores Alana Rose Duran, Ashley Langaman, Kirsten Balucan and Susi Namoa. First-year players on the team were Ciana Lins and Sophia Sobel.
Coach Villatora added that as match play continues through the end of the month, several Lady Lunas have a shot at making states, led by Valencia.
“We’ve had a good season as our coaching staff of Lee Lins and Orlino Valencia, as well as team supporters Diane Valencia and Jennifer Villatora, have been instrumental in the overall team improvement,” he said.
On the boys’ side of the course, Kaanapali Golf Professional Sutee Nitakorn and assistant Dandy Don Rosenthal have led the Lahainaluna program for ten-plus years and looked forward to the 2017 season with great anticipation. However, erratic academic performances from key players on the team led to a mediocre MIL run.
“This has been a challenging year for us,” stated Coach Sutee from his office at the Kaanapali Golf Courses. “We had great potential at the start of the year but lost two top players due to grades. Throughout the year, we worked with the kids on academic responsibility. We had lessons to be learned, and especially that academics should come first.”
The Luna lineup card included seniors Kaimi Kanaha and Antonio Bak, juniors Ezra Macadangdang and Jensen Powley, and sophomore Matt Ramelb. Coach Sutee added that both Powley and Ramelb are in position to qualify for the state tournament that tees off May 1-5 at the Kaanapali Royal Course.
Both Villatora and Nitakorn had high praise for the Kaanapali and Kapalua Resort golf operations for their continuing support for Maui’s youths, as well as to Dave Havens and his Spare For Change program that provides refurbished golf equipment for the kids. They also thanked LHS Athletic Director Scott Soldwisch and Trainers Jon Conrad and Helen Hetzel for their support.