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With new coach Simpson, Rainbow Warriors set to return to Valley Isle

Scott Simpson drives on the sixth hole during the second round of the U.S. Senior Open at the Indianwood Golf and Country Club in Lake Orion, Mich., on July 13, 2012. Simpson, who counts the 1987 U.S. Open among his seven victories in a 27-year PGA Tour career, is in his first year as head coach of the University of Hawaii men’s golf team; he brings the Rainbow Warriors to the Royal Kaanapali Course for the Kaanapali Classic, Oct. 29-31. — AP file photo

The Maui connection to the University of Hawaii men’s golf roster is gone for now, but new head coach Scott Simpson is happy the program still has a presence on the Valley Isle.

UH will host the Kaanapali Classic at the Royal Kaanapali Golf Course on Oct. 29-31.

It will be the first time since 2016 that the event will not have a pair of Mauians — Baldwin High School graduates Justin Ngan and Justin Arcano — on the Rainbow Warriors roster. They both completed their college eligibility in the spring.

Simpson won seven times in a 27-year PGA Tour career, including the 1987 U.S. Open.

“For our program, it’s just such a great thing that we get to host tournaments,” Simpson said via phone from Oahu on Thursday. “By NCAA rules … we are limited by the number of competitive days we can have ever year and when you go to Hawaii you get basically three free days.

“So, all these schools basically have a free tournament and they get to tell their recruits, ‘We go to Hawaii.’ I think that’s a drawing card.”

The Kaanapali Classic currently has 14 teams lined up to come to the event that annually draws a stacked field. That is down a few due to COVID-19 concerns, but Simpson sees the Maui event as a recruiting tool for his program as well.

“I’m looking forward to telling my recruits: ‘Why go to Hawaii for one week when you can come here for the whole year?’ “ Simpson said. “We get to play in these tournaments and we get to compete against the best players in college golf.

“So, I hope to attract kids that dream about playing the PGA Tour — obviously most players don’t make it, but I love kids who dream about it.”

Simpson came to the Hawaii men’s program after spending two seasons as an assistant for the UH women.

“I’d been teaching a lot of kids in Hawaii and found out that I really enjoyed that,” Simpson said. “I helped a girl transfer into UH and the coach, I told him, ‘Hey, if there’s anything I can do to help out, let me know.’

“Next thing you know he says, ‘Well, want to be my assistant?’ … It ended up being the last two years and it’s been really fun, really enjoyed it, loved being with the girls.”

Simpson jumped at the chance to take over the UH men’s program when the opportunity opened up. He was officially named to the post on June 25.

“When the boys job opened up — they made the change with baseball and golf — I applied, applied for a job for the first time in my life and hey, I’m 1-for-1,” Simpson said. “I’ve really enjoyed it so far.”

The Rainbow Warriors will open their fall season this weekend with the HPU Sharks Shootout at Pearl Country Club. The Kaanapali event is the fifth and final event on the fall schedule.

It is the only UH-hosted college golf event set for Maui on the 2021-22 schedules unveiled this week, for men and women. The Anuenue Spring Break Classic for women that has been held at Kapalua and Kaanapali for several years will not be played this academic year.

“It’s a great event and it’s really important,” Simpson said of the Kaanapali Classic. “I got to come over last year — I never played Kaanapali, the Champions Tour was out of there before I got out there, so I missed playing there. The (UH) girls played there and I thought it was a really good course. Obviously you get up and down some hills and the greens were what gave the girls a lot of trouble, with the slopes and the grain.

“We kept telling them, ‘everything’s breaking to Lanai,’ but they still struggled with it. I thought it was a really good course, really fun. It’s not really hard. If you’re playing well, there’s room to play out there, but if you start spraying it around you can get in some trouble, especially around the greens.”

Simpson played in the 1999 Tournament of Champions — the PGA Tour’s winners-only event at the Kapalua Plantation Course — as well as several Kapalua International and Kapalua Clambake tourneys right up the road from where he will be coaching in seven weeks.

Simpson said his goal is to recruit the best players in the state, including Maui. He believes the Kaanapali Classic can be a big part of the equation — his roster this season has four players from the 50th state.

“It’s something the kids are really looking forward to, especially (because) it’s a three-day tournament, which is really nice — a lot of other tournaments are 36 (holes), 18 (holes) … then they try to get out of there,” Simpson said. “This one has 18, 18, 18, so I told the boys this is going to be fun. Because you get to go to the beach, maybe we’ll do something fun in the afternoon. I’m really looking forward to it.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com

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