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Thursday, October 23, 2014         

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Dave & Buster's on the bag

By Ann Miller

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In a collision that seemed destined, the Hawaii State Junior Golf Association has come together with Dave & Buster's Honolulu to create the inaugural Dave & Buster's Junior Classic.

It is a real golf tournament, not an interactive game on the restaurant's "Million Dollar Midway." It happens this weekend at Waikele Golf Club. This year, it is open to HSJGA members between the ages of 13 and 18.

Future plans could have it opening up to those 7 and older, and reaching out to every major island, along with Dave & Buster's business partners. General manager Matt Luckett envisioned a format similar to the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup, for kids, when he first approached HSJGA President Mary Bea Porter-King.

Both saw a need for more events here. What they plan for the future is a Dave & Buster's Cup, with events on each major island. Luckett calls this "a mission."

Top finishers would qualify for an end-of-season championship on Oahu that will include a Junior-Am for Dave & Buster's vendors, clients and customers, much like a pro tour event's Pro-Am. Luckett saw the Junior-Am interaction at work when he sponsored the PGA Junior last year, and characterized it as "awesome."

He hopes it will help convince vendors to support the HSJGA and the Cup's outer-island events. So does Porter-King, who met Luckett at the association's annual mixed plate fundraiser.

"Matt was meeting the kids and seeing the caliber of the juniors in the program," Porter-King said. "He asked how he could be involved. We sat down in January to negotiate what we saw as the needs of both of us. I think we met those."

The restaurant/midway will give the HSJGA financial support and a banquet at a place juniors might consider their "19th hole." This year's trophies are crystal claret jugs, modeled after the British Open trophy.

Dave & Buster's will be linked with an organization currently on a golf tear.

The HSJGA now has more than 500 members and 20-plus tournaments a year. Its final eight of 2010 include the Mixed Team Championship at Kauai Lagoons, Match Play Championship at Kaanapali, Asia-Pacific Junior Cup at Waikoloa and Ulupalakua Ranch Tournament of Champions at Wailea.

In its 12th year, the association is celebrating its greatest summer and two of the reasons are "crashing" the first Dave & Buster's event. Allisen Corpuz and Mariel Galdiano, both 12, are "playing up" and in the field of 61. Both are coming off spectacular summer vacations.

Corpuz, who will be the only seventh-grader in the American Junior Golf Association Girls Championship in South Carolina next week, won the Hawaii State Women's Match Play last year, after finishing second in the oldest division of the HSJGA Match Play. This summer she was second at Jennie K., Junior Worlds and U.S. Kids -- where she has won three times -- and became the youngest AJGA champ in history at Quad Cities in Illinois.

Galdiano, a Maryknoll seventh-grader, stayed closer to home and finished second at the state women's stroke and match play championships -- to HSJGA alum Nicole Sakamoto. Galdiano started the summer off by winning her third straight HSJGA State Championship.

"The fact the two of them are playing well only motivates older kids and younger," says Porter-King, who is planning to extend the HSJGA's reach by starting nine-hole events. "Last year I heard older kids say, 'Gee, an 11-year old beat me.' That motivates everyone."

The terrific 12-year-olds were not alone in a summer when Hawaii kids were seemingly winning every time they teed it up.

Baldwin senior Cassy Isagawa won the state high school and HSJGA State Championships here, then took second at Junior Worlds and won the 35th Junior PGA Championship on the Mainland. That got her on the Junior Ryder Cup team, which plays next month in Scotland.

"It was a dream for me to make this team," Isagawa said. "I can't wait to go to Scotland and compete against the best junior players from Europe. We all want to win."

Last month, the team of Isagawa, Cyd Okino, Alina Ching and Kacie Komoto lifted Hawaii to its first Junior America's Cup victory in 18 years. Ciera Min and Alice Kim went wire to wire to win Mary Cave Cup.

Eimi Koga captured the 13-14 division at Junior Worlds and Lorens Chan had a first and second at AJGA events on the mainland.

And, on his way out of the HSJGA and into his freshman year at USF, Kamehameha graduate Alika Bell won the Barbers Point Invitational and two Amatour events.

"They've raised the bar this summer," Porter-King said.





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