The Pro-Junior Skills Challenge offered a little bit of everything for those gathered yesterday at the 18th green.
The Kamehameha Schools band and choir provided some nice pregame entertainment before giving way to the Skydive Hawaii show that had a dozen jumpers — including Golf Channel broadcaster Dave Marr — split the 18th fairway with their landings.
"I thought Hawaii was beautiful from the ground," Marr said seconds after touching down with his jumping partner. "But it’s spectacular up there. I can’t wait to go again."
And yeah, they played a little golf, too.
As always, six teams of pros and junior golfers competed in a four-part contest that started with the 128-yard miracle shot that’s based on Isao Aoki’s eagle at the last hole to win the 1983 United Airlines Hawaiian Open, and ended with a unique putting contest that decided the eventual winners.
Matt Kuchar and Maui playing partner Alexander Chiarella waited until the putting contest to steal the victory in this $25,000 event that raises money for junior golf. After the first three challenges, this talented twosome had 11 points and trailed front-runners Rich Barnes and Aiea’s Ryan Kuroiwa by 22 points. A new wrinkle was put into the contest this year. You could earn one point for every foot of a made putt.
Barnes and Kuroiwa took the lead after they both made a 12-footer, good enough for 24 points.
"We knew what we had to do," Chiarella said. "We had to score at least 23 points, so Matt decided to go for a 23-footer."
Chiarella left his putter in the car, borrowed one and missed his to the left. Kuchar, who picked out the down and distance, rolled it in, showing why he was the leading money winner last year on the PGA Tour. He raised his arms high and did a little dance to celebrate his team’s one-point lead.
None of the other teams could match Kuchar’s make, giving he and Chiarella, a Seabury Hall junior, a one-point win with 34. Barnes and Kuroiwa were second with 33, Fred Funk and Allisen Corpuz of Punahou were third (13), Steve Stricker and Japanese sensation Kota Kagasaki by way of Australia were fourth (12), Jerry Kelly and Punahou senior Cyd Okino finished fifth (11) and Zach Johnson and Kamehameha junior Scotty Yamashita were sixth (eight).
Funk had the shot of the day and gave his team the early lead by blasting out of the bunker and holing it from about 30 yards. As he put it, "The senior showed the juniors how it’s done."
Funk, who will be on the Big Island next week for the start of the Champions Tour, also did a nice dance after knocking his shot in the hole. The crowd gave a loud roar of approval that had to raise a few eyebrows on the practice range. But he was unable to sink a 22-foot putt needed to give his team the one-point win.
As for Chiarella, well, he had the time of his life. The junior will attend the University of San Diego upon graduation and thoroughly enjoyed himself.
"It’s always a lot of fun to play with a pro like Matt Kuchar," Chiarella said. "And it’s always good to represent Maui. We’ve done well in the past in this challenge."