Tournament of Champions raises more than $312,000 for island charities

Lahainaluna High School football players Tuipulotu Lai (from right), Nyles Pokipala, Apakasi Felemi and Ikaika Viela lead teammates in the singing of the school’s alma mater during Tuesday’s Sentry Tournament of Champions check presentation ceremony. The Lahainaluna High School Foundation was one of six main recipients of a portion of $312,430 raised during the winners-only golf tournament at the Kapalua Plantation Course. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

LAHAINA — Pete McPartland watched the Tournament of Champions at the Kapalua Plantation Course long before Sentry Insurance became the title sponsor a little less than a year ago.

“As a fan of this tournament — at least from the TV perspective over the years — I find myself living in frozen Wisconsin in the dead of winter, looking at the TV and I see all these beautiful vistas,” said McPartland, the Sentry chief executive officer, at Sue Cooley Stadium on the campus on Lahainaluna High School on Tuesday morning. “And everything is about the beautiful island of Maui. Then, as we get involved in the tournament, Sentry Insurance, we come to find out all the things that this tournament does for the island of Maui. It’s very easy to get emotionally behind that.”

In that vein, McPartland unveiled a symbolic check on Tuesday for $312,430 that will go to Maui charities, all of which were represented at a ceremony under a baking West Maui sun.

“We first kind of knew of the opportunity in early July of 2017, and worked quickly with the PGA Tour management group,” McPartland said. “We, of course, had an interest in tournament sponsorship because we’d redesigned our brand and knew what the game of golf potentially would do for us as a business.”

Less than two months later, Sentry was on board as the official title sponsor of the winners-only event that has been held at the Plantation Course since 1999.

“It’s been terrific, and now we’re getting a better understanding of some things we didn’t fully understand before,” McPartland said. “The relationship, I would say on two levels is how it would work for us, and both have been fantastic. No. 1, the PGA management team is terrific to work with . . . Also, I would say the love affair we have going with the island of Maui and the people. Maui reminds us a lot of Wisconsin in terms of the community.”

Several Lahainaluna football players were on hand in uniform and performed the school’s alma mater for the festivities on the “Luna Lanai” area of the stadium where a new $100,000 concession serving area is under construction.

“It’s a great opportunity, and we feel awesome about it,” said Etuati Storer, a rising senior defensive back. “It’s a blessing that they gave out these funds and stuff.”

Joshua Tihada, a junior-to-be running back whose fifth rushing touchdown was the game-winner in a 75-69, seven-overtime win over Konawaena in the Division II state championship game last November, said he is also thankful for the support from adults.

“It’s a big blessing for the whole football team,” Tihada said. “We come out here and play on this beautiful field. It’s honestly a big blessing to have that big check and all these checks and all these charities donating to us. I’m just very, very thankful, from our football team to all of them. We’re all just so happy and so thankful for all these guys.”

Tournament Executive Director Nancy Cross said the amount of charitable donations on Maui has surpassed $6.6 million since 1999.

The main beneficiaries are Boy Scouts of America, the Friends of the Children’s Justice Center, Hale Makua Health Services, the J. Walter Cameron Center, Ka Lima O Maui, and Lahainaluna High School Foundation. A breakdown of funds to each group wasn’t available.

“This is the fun part of the tournament,” Cross said. “These aren’t charities where we just write them a check — they really help us. They’re great to work with. Their organizations do so much for the community, so as we said, to surpass $6.6 million since the event moved to Maui, it’s really impactful for our small community. And honestly, it makes all the stress or whatever worthwhile. Today’s a great day, and we’re really happy to make this announcement.”

* Robert Collias can be reached at rcollias@mauinews.com.