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Aloha Section foundation’s goal: fund scholarships, find golfers

  • JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM
    PGA Tour player and Hawaii State Junior Golf Association graduate, Parker McLachlin, center, golfed with HSJGA members Cassy Isagawa, Hee Sue Condry, Kyle Suppa and Andrew Paisley yesterday at Ko Olina. The four juniors were the leading fundraisers in last year's "Parker's Birdies for Juniors." As a Baldwin High senior, Isagawa is eligible for an Aloha Section PGA Foundation scholarship.
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Applications are now available for this year’s Aloha Section PGA Foundation scholarships and grants, which are the basics of a 5-year-old organization now back to the basics.

The foundation is the philanthropic arm of the local section. Aloha PGA is one of 41 sections made up of 28,000 golf pros in the 95-year-old PGA of America. It received its tax-exempt status in June 2006 and raised, with the support of Castle Resorts, $100,000 for the University of Hawaii golf program with the Pro-Am Series from 2007-09.

That ended last year, and the foundation’s sole focus now is its scholarship program, apprentice grants and raising money for those programs through the annual PGA Classic. That list might grow if the section can find some stability.

The two-person Aloha Section staff is now deep into transition and training, to say nothing of its regular work load. It has been cut back by one body, made over twice and changed offices in a little over a year. Interim executive director Anthony Valverde took over this month after Hal Okita’s resignation.

Valverde worked for the Southern California Section three years before he was hired July 9 as tournament director. Within an hour of landing he was on a conference call for work. Within seven months, he was in charge.

The foundation’s stated purpose is to "develop and promote interest, participation and enjoyment in the game of golf and preserve the history of golf" in Hawaii. The goal is to do all that through instruction, education and junior golf programs, scholarships and the operation of the Hawaii Golf Hall of Fame.

Valverde says the foundation is "trying to build as we speak" — and while he catches his breath.

"We want to put golf clubs in the hands of people who wouldn’t normally go out to a golf course and learn the game," Valverde said. "We have to be proactive and bring golf to them, have programs ready to go mobile."

He wants to revive the foundation committee. Valverde worked with BirdieBall when he was in Southern Cal and is interested in bringing that to Hawaii. BirdieBall is a hollow cylinder that resembles a napkin ring and acts like golf’s version of Wiffle ball. It feels like a real golf ball when it is hit, and shots can be "shaped." But its flight is restricted to about 40 yards.

It can be used in small, confined spaces, such as backyards or for kids’ programs. BirdieBall was voted best new instructional product in 2005, but hasn’t really hit Hawaii.

"It’s a great tool, and it’s fun," Valverde says. "It creates an unintimidating atmosphere. Hopefully, it will attract new golfers.

"In Southern California, hospitals teamed up to do our programs indoors. All you need is a 20-by-20 space. We reached out to burn victims."

The foundation’s immediate goal is to raise $60,000 at the April 29 PGA Classic at Kapolei. Valverde would like to see scholarship winners play in the classic, along with Aloha Section board members and Hall of Famers — "Then we’d have a whole field of the brightest and biggest stars coming through our program."

Scholarship and grant applications are at aloha.pga.com/scholarships. Information is available by contacting Kristin Molina at 593-2230 or kmolina@pgahq.com.

Scholarships are for high school seniors and current college students who have "actively participated in the game of golf and excelled in their academic achievements." One-year scholarships are awarded with the amount determined by available funds. A committee determines the winners.

The foundation also has a new scholarship opportunity for one high school senior to get a $20,000 scholarship to Methodist University in Fayetteville, N.C. The total provides $5,000 annually toward tuition. Applicants must be first-year students who have been accepted to Methodist before May 1.

Applicants must be Hawaii residents involved in golf, have completed or plan to complete high school before Aug. 1 and be enrolled or plan to enroll in an accredited U.S. college or university this fall. Applications must be received by March 25.

The foundation’s apprentice grant applications are also available. Up to five $1,000 awards are available to eligible apprentices to encourage them to attain PGA membership.

The committee reviews an apprentice’s "involvement with the section, financial need, moral character" and personal and work references. They must be a Hawaii resident, a registered apprentice with the section, disclose financial assistance by their employer and register for a checkpoint or seminar this calendar year (through Jan. 31, 2012).

Applications will be accepted through Sept. 1.

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