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Lahaina Junior Golf program flourishing with 60 students

By BY WALTER CHIHARA - | Oct 30, 2020

Lahaina Junior Golf students include (from left) Sacha Salem, Ava Kawahara, Tehya Chumley, Jasmyn Yun and Anna Nguyen.

KAANAPALI — With the jewels of the West Side in the form of the Kaanapali and Kapalua Resort Golf Courses, Maui is blessed with two world-class venues for the popular sport. And as the front porch on the leeward side of the island just north of historic Lahaina Town, Kaanapali continues to sparkle, in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, as a beacon of positivity on the Valley Isle.

Kaanapali Resort Director of Golf Sutee Nitakorn reported that the course is in top shape thanks to the entire staff, and that pandemic protocols are strictly in place to welcome back visiting guests.

“We’ve gone through a lot of checks and balances to reopen (for transpacific travelers) fully starting on the 15th,” he explained last week. “The Royal and Kai Courses have been open since May 1 to local players, and our Footgolf program has continued on Fridays for a fun experience for the community.”

Now into his 13th year at Kaanapali, Nitakorn describes 2020 as the most unusual year of his career here.

“We are so thankful to our staff and to the local community for their unwavering and consistent support as we were so fortunate to be open. We are grateful for the opportunity to rekindle relationships with the local players.”

“We’ve also been fortunate to maintain some structure to our program. One way has been our ‘Nine and Grind’ events with Roy’s every Sunday. We’ve established a partnership with Roy’s for participants to play nine holes and then go up to Roy’s restaurant for some Maui-style grinds. We’ve been doing it for half of the pandemic and sold out every Sunday. It’s something different each week.”

Nitakorn is also the Lahainaluna High School golf team coach, and he serves as vice president of Lahaina Junior Golf, one of Maui’s elite keiki athletic programs initiated by Dandy Don Rosenthal some ten years ago at Kaanapali.

Realtor Joel Navarro is the current president of Lahaina Junior Golf that today has some 60 active members ages six to 17 years old. Other board members include Lahainaluna Athletic Director Scott Soldwisch, Kapalua Golf Professional Ben Hongo and Scott Reinhardt from Central Maui.

Navarro reported that LJG is flourishing, and he extended the organization’s appreciation to Kaanapali and Kapalua Resorts for their support.

He also expressed particular thanks to the Sentry Tournament of Champions for the opportunity for the youngsters of Lahaina Junior Golf to participate in last year’s event to greet the world’s top PGA Tour tournament winners at the Kapalua event.

In return, Navarro noted that the tournament made “a very generous donation to the Lahaina Junior Golf program.”