Acura Hawaii Pro-Junior Skills Challenge
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Five of Hawaii’s top junior golfers - Zoey Akagi-Bustin, Ariel Elftman-Hanson, Kaci Masuda, Tyler Munetake and John Oda - earned spots to play alongside PGA TOUR professionals in the annual Acura Hawaii Pro-Junior Skills Challenge. Scheduled at 2:45 p.m. on Tuesday, January 7 during Sony Open tournament week, the two-man(or woman) team competition is a fun, free community event that highlights the Hawaii's best junior golfers and generates $20,000 to benefit the Hawaii State Junior Golf Association (HSJGA) from participating pro purse donations and generous sponsor support. A three-hole scramble shootout, this event will be held at Waialae Country Club's 10th, 11th and 18th holes.
Junior qualifying for the Skills Challenge, is an annual, season-long points competition administered by the Hawaii State Junior Golf Association. HSJGA golfers earn points at each competition sanctioned by the organization. Points are calculated based on their performances. Points are awarded for special achievements like Player of the Year honors.
“This event gives us a chance to show off Hawaii's top junior golfers," said Dan Keppel, president of Acura Hawaii, title sponsor of the event. "And for them to have an opportunity to meet and compete alongside international golf stars is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
Additional sponsors for the event include skills sponsors Kraft Foods Group in Hawaii, Monarch Insurance and Mobi PCS; community sponsor Aloha Section PGA; and media sponsor KHON 2 FOX-TV. Swoish Produce and Enza also contributed to promoting this community event. The Acura Hawaii Pro-Junior Skills Challenge is an official event of the Sony Open in Hawaii, and the first of the various tournament competitions open to the public.
Participating Junior Golfers:
Fifteen-year-old Iolani School sophomore Zoey Akagi-Bustin started playing golf when she was eight years old. Her first sport was tennis, but she decided to focus on golf because tennis involved too much running. Zoey, who lives in Wahiawa, says she likes golf because, “Golf is an individual sport. It's just the golf course and me, so if I make a mistake it is all my fault and I have no one but myself to blame.” She participated in this year’s Girls Junior America's Cup in New Mexico and Asia Pacific Junior Cup and also qualified for the 2012 USGA Women's Public Links Championship in Neshanic Valley Golf Course in New Jersey. Her favorite subject in school is Geometry. Zoey likens the subject to golf “where there is more than one solution to each problem and you need to make the best choice.” She is honored and grateful to participate in the Acura Hawaii Pro-Junior Skills Challenge at the Sony Open and hopes to learn “how professional golfers prepare for big tournaments, their practice routines, and how they handle the pressures of competing.”
Ariel Elftman-Hanson, an H.P. Baldwin High School senior, started playing golf competitively at nine years old. A resident of Wailuku, Maui, Ariel says he likes being out on the course and being surrounded by great people and nature, but also enjoys the challenge and adversity golf brings to his life. Ariel had a hole-in-one on the 11th hole at the Waikoloa Kings’ Course during the singles matches on the final day of 2013 Asia Pacific Junior Cup where he led the Hawaii team to victory. He considers his greatest golf accomplishment this year is being able to break seventy. “When the day came I was ecstatic,” Ariel said, “Because breaking seventy for me is reaching a higher level of golf.” His favorite school subject is physics “because it deals with concepts used in everyday life. I enjoy math and science, and physics is a mixture of both.” Off the golf course, Ariel relaxes by surfing and bodyboarding. He is excited to play alongside the pros in the Acura Hawaii Pro-Junior Skills Challenge because, “I hope to gain knowledge from watching how the professionals hit difficult shots,” Ariel said. “I hope to learn what their thought process is when preparing to hit a difficult shot.”
Kaci Masuda, a seventeen-year-old junior at the American Renaissance Academy on Oahu, started playing golf at age four when her father introduced her to the sport. She says that she likes “the challenge of making a golf shot, there are so many different types of golf shots.” She shot a 70, two under par in the second round of the 2013 Michelle Wie HSJGA Tournament of Champions and took first place in the Girls 15-18 division to earn a spot in the Acura Hawaii Pro-Junior Skills Challenge. Kaci’s favorite school subject is math and physics, because she likes the challenge of finding the solution. She also enjoy singing, playing the piano and drums and playing basketball. Kaci is very excited about participaing in the Acura Hawaii Pro-Junior Skills Challenge. “I hope to learn golf tips from the participating golf professionals,” she said. “I am also looking forward to the challenge of making the various golf shots under pressure.”
Sixteen-year-old H.P. Baldwin High School student Tyler Munetake started playing golf at the age of eight because he wanted to do something besides baseball. As it turned out, golf was harder than he anticipated and he wanted to improve so he stuck with it. Tyler says what he likes about golf is that “it's a never ending pursuit to achieve greatness.” In his view, no matter how good you get, there is always something that can be better, and it (golf) really pushes him to try his best. He considers his greatest golf accomplishment was winning the boys 15-18 title in the Hawaii State Junior Golf Association Match Play Championships last September and defeating Baldwin High School teammate Ariel Elftman-Hanson 6 and 5 in the final. Tyler’s favorite school subject is science. He works on challenging homework for Advanced Placement English and Calculus before each golf practice. Tyler is grateful for the opportunity that the Acura Hawaii Pro-Junior Skills Challenge will give him to hit shots with some of the best players in the game of golf and says that what he hopes to gain is knowledge.
John Oda, a seventeen-year-old Moanalua High School senior, started playing golf at the tender age of two. His father took him out to play one day and he just loved it. John said he appreciates “the challenge of golf and how every shot is different - you will never get to have the same shot twice.” Two years ago, John earned a spot in the 2012 Sony Open in Hawaii, teeing off with PGA TOUR pros in the official competition. Last year, John broke the Hawaii State Amateur Stroke Play Championship tournament record by six strokes finishing 19-under-269. In his spare time, he enjoys playing the ukulele. He loves studying Math at school “because it has only one direct answer and it is straight up.” John seems to have a wisdom beyond his years. He said, “I have faced the ups and downs of golf. I have been in a slump and find that it is best to just to keep on grinding through it and working hard. Golf ebbs and flows just like life and being positive and working hard is the remedy to get through those tough moments.”