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Kaanapali offers junior golfers opportunity to compete

Armanini

Like many other sports sidelined by the COVID-19 pandemic, golf has adapted to get players back to the game.

Kaanapali Golf Courses’ In-House PGA Junior League will give that opportunity to junior players. The league is set to have age divisions for 17-under players and 13-under players with matches beginning March 13 — matches will continue every two weeks through July 17.

All-star matches will be played at Kapolei against players from Oahu the week of July 26 with the winners moving to regional play in California, which could lead to national tournament qualification.

“I’m super excited for the upcoming season, this is the first time that we’re doing an in-house league for Kaanapali,” program director Chris Armanini said Tuesday. “Normally we have a

summer league that we play between Wailea, Kaanapali and Waiehu — this is going to tie into that. This is going to give the kids more reps in the spring so they are building and ready for the summer.”

Dillon Jonke, shown chipping during an MIL match on Feb. 26, 2020, is among the Maui Preparatory Academy players set to play in Kaanapali’s PGA Junior League. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

With Maui Interscholastic League play still in limbo as to whether or not it will happen this spring, Armanini knew he wanted to make sure the older age division was available in this league.

If MIL play happens, the Kaanapali league will make sure to work with the high school league to make sure players are available to their school teams.

Each age division has room for 24 players and there are still openings in each division. To sign up, golfers can go to pgajrleague.com, and search for Kaanapali. The deadline to register is Feb. 27.

The cost for the season is $400, but Armanini stressed that there are several scholarship opportunities available.

“The really cool thing about this is that the PGA region, PGA of America, they do a real good job of helping out students in need,” Armanini said. “The way they define that is if you’re getting some sort of subsidized lunch program at school, there’s been any recent loss of job or loss of income — which I know a lot of people have had that in the last year — if there’s any additional medical bills that have been added in the last year, those types of things. Or anyone that is retired or active military, they do a really good job of taking care of almost the entire thing, the entire program, to get the kid in there.

“I really don’t want that price to scare anybody away. … They can come talk to me and we’ll figure out a way to get a scholarship in there. I’m all for getting kids out on the golf course.”

Each week players will form teams of two to play in a match-play, scramble format where the golfers each hit every shot and use the best one.

“They’ll be playing with the same skill level, but they’ll be playing with different partners every week,” Armanini said. “That way we get a different variety of who they get to play with and it gives them more competition. … We get a little more camaraderie in that (format). The kids have a lot of fun.”

Armanini, who is also the coach for Maui Preparatory Academy in MIL play, would like to see the program expand to perhaps include other golf courses on the island fielding teams. Caleb Chumley, Dillon Jonke and Chris Salem from the MPA team have already signed up for the 17-under division.

“I’d love to have them all come out, that’d be great,” Armanini said. “The more teams we can get, the more competition we can stimulate and the better it is for the kids.”

The program will require all participants to be masked when near anyone else, and sanitation stations will be available throughout the courses and the pro shop.

“Out on the golf course basically what we ask them to do is to keep their mask near their face so that when they’re near people they can just slide their mask up their face and have their conversations,” Armanini said. “For the most part, when they’re on the golf course they are away from everybody.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com

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