When Golf is Not Enough; Exploring Maui

By Brandon TuckerJanuary 4, 2011, 7:53 pm
maui golf off course

KA'ANAPALI, Hawaii – After 18 holes of golf on Maui, enjoying some sun on your beachfront lanai listening to the waves may be about as much action as you desire.

But when you're up to explore, the island has plenty to do after golf – and it's practically all outdoors. Here are some of the best ways to discover Maui's incredible ecology as well as the culture and tastes of the people who live here.
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Mount Haleakala Sunrise Bike Tour
No trip to Maui is complete without driving up 10,000 feet to the summit of mighty Mt. Haleakala for sunrise.  

To make it in time, you'll have to get up around 3 a.m. and get to the summit before 5 a.m., before watching the black sky fill with colors.

After a little post-sunrise eco-tour at the top, we chose the downhill bike ride option with MauiDownhill.com, who provided us one-speed cruisers and helmets.

We plunged down about 4,000 feet of mountain switchbacks back toward civilization, taking in sunny panoramic views of the islands the whole way down.

You don't have to do the bike ride to see the sunrise, you can actually drive up yourself ($10 per car) though there is a capacity limit and cars can be turned away during the busy times of year.

Taste of Maui
Hawaii's multicultural heritage stems largely from the plantation-boom years that drew immigrants from all over Asia to find work in paradise. It has led to a fusion of culinary tastes, from sushi to the countless ways to prepare fish, fruits and other island fare.

The Banyan Tree restaurant at the Kapalua Ritz-Carlton offers a tasting menu, a $150 dinner with four courses. Or get their tasting appetizer, which lets you select a trio of mostly seafood-based small bites, from dungeness crab to pan seared scallops.

For a cheaper meal and a little local street cred, try a Spam musabi for breakfast or a traditional plate lunch, consisting of pork, rice and macaroni salad with a good dose of salt.

Watch surfers wipe out, or take your own lesson
We took the five-minute stroll from the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua down to the beach and watched surfers of many abilities take on angry ocean swells of about 6-10 feet. I saw enough spectacular wipe-outs to determine this will always be a sport viewed by me from afar.

But it you simply must try it with your own two feet, most resorts offer surfing lessons. Be sure to tell them your ability.

Stand-up paddle boarding
Stand-up paddle boarding isn't quite as difficult as surfing for the mainlander but is still a good morning workout and rewarding once you get your balance and can paddle across the bays. We rented out some paddleboards at the Sheraton Ka'anapali on a morning when the seas were a little rough. It took a few falls and some advice from the instructor ('Dude, you're on the board backwards.') to figure it out, but it was worth it.

Make it out past 'Maui Midnight'
On the weekend, book a later tee time so you can stay out later than 'Maui Midnight'  (known to us mainlanders as 10 p.m.). For some after-hours action, head to one of two Sansei locations for late-night karaoke and sushi happy hour. You can find Sansei in Kapalua Village and in the heart of Kihei in South Maui.

If you're in sleepier Wailea, head to Mulligan's, a lively Irish pub at Wailea's Old Blue clubhouse, which has live music and open mic nights.

Coral reef snorkeling
You can find coral reefs along many parts of the coastline in Maui. The Sheraton Ka'anapali has a reef near Black Rock, and so does the Fairmont Kea Lani in Wailea.

When snorkeling, in many places you can hear the sound of whales (in season), and you'll also be swimming with huge sea turtles who often hang around the coral reefs.

Kapalua Adventure Ziplines
Maui has a handful of zipline tour operators. We opted for the Kapalua Adventure afternoon zipline tour ($150 per person), which trudges up into the Maui mountains, high above the Kapalua Plantation course and has four tandem ziplines that total about 5,000 feet.

The first zip is a warm-up, but the next three are fast and dramatic over gorges and valleys. The final zip is about a half-mile long, plenty long enough to pick up some serious speed as you sail high over a bamboo forest and deep gorge toward the ocean.

Take a canoe trip
Canoeing is a good way to head out into the waters, gaze back at the islands and look below for fish and sea life. Maui has enough sheltered bays, like around Kihei or Wailea, that you shouldn't be tipped over by any rogue waves.

At the Fairmont Kea Lani in Wailea, we took their morning historical canoe ride. Guides talked about native Hawaiians' relationship with the sea, and we paddled out to the reef and observed sea turtles and sea urchins in their habitats.

Find your perfect sunset spot
From honeymooners to natives sitting in pick-up trucks drinking beer, everyone makes time to get to a beach and catch the sunset in Maui.

Maui has 120 miles of coastline and 30 miles of beaches. You can either find your own little secluded part of the coast – or grab a stiff Mai Tai at the Sheraton Maui Resort  & Spa in Ka'anapali and watch the ceremonial sunset cliff divers.
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LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 8:23 pm

The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.

The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.

The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in the Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at  Club de Golf de Panama.

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Beef's beer goggles: Less drinks = more wins

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 6:07 pm

An offseason spent soul searching is apparently paying quick dividends for Andrew “Beef” Johnston, who is in contention to win Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Johnston acknowledged he was “burning the candle at both ends” last year, playing both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, but he told reporters Saturday that it wasn’t too much golf that hindered his efforts.

It was too much “socializing.”

“I'm a social person,” Johnston said. “If you go out with friends, or you get invited to something, I'll have a beer, please. But I probably had a few too many beers, I would say, to be honest. And it reflected in my golf, and I was disappointed looking back at it. I want to turn that around and have a good season.”

Johnston posted a 6-under-par 66 Saturday, moving into a tie for sixth, three shots off the lead. He said he arrived in Abu Dhabi a week early to prepare for his first start of the new year. It’s paying off with a Sunday chance to win his second European Tour title.

“Last year was crazy, and like getting distracted, and things like that,” Johnston said. “You don't know it's happened until you've finished the season. You’re off doing things and you're burning the candle at both ends. When I got back from last season, sort of had time to reflect on it, I sort of said to myself, 'You've got to keep quiet and keep disciplined and get on with your work.’”

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Johnston finished 189th last year in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings. He was 116th in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

Johnston’s fun-loving personality, his scruffy beard and his big-bodied shape quickly made him one of the most popular and entertaining players in the game when he earned his PGA Tour card before the 2016-17 season. Golf Digest called him a “quirky outlier,” and while he has had fun with that persona, Johnston is also intent on continuing to prove he belongs among the game’s best players.

His plan for doing that?

“Just put the work in,” he said. “I didn’t put enough work in last year. It’s simple. It showed. So, just get down, knuckle down and practice hard.”

Rory McIlroy at the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Getty Images

McIlroy making big statement in first start of 2018

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 3:40 pm

Rory McIlroy marched the fairways of Abu Dhabi Golf Club Saturday with that fighter pilot stride of his, with that confident little bob in his step that you see when he is in command of his full arsenal of shots.

So much for easing into the new year.

So much for working off rust and treating these first few months of 2018 as a warmup for the Masters and his bid to complete the career Grand Slam.

McIlroy, 28, is poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

With back-to-back birdies to close his round, McIlroy put up a 7-under-par 65, leaving him just one shot off the lead going into the final round.

“It’s good,” McIlroy said. “I probably scored a bit better today, short game was needed as well, but I hit the ball very well, so all in all it was another great round and confidence builder, not just for this week but obviously for the rest of the season as well.”

McIlroy can make a strong statement with a win Sunday.

If he claims the title in his first start of the year, he sends a message about leaving all the woes of 2017 behind him. He sends a message about his fitness after a nagging rib injury plagued him all of last year. He sends a message about his readiness to reassert himself as the game’s best player in a world suddenly teeming with towering young talent.

After his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro, McIlroy is eager to show himself, as well as everyone else, that he is ready to challenge for major championships and the world No. 1 title again.

“It feels like awhile since I’ve won,” McIlroy said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

A victory would be all the more meaningful because the week started with McIlroy paired with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and reigning European Tour Player of the Year Tommy Fleetwood.

McIlroy acknowledged the meaning of that going into Saturday’s round.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent healthy,” he said. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and one of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

It’s worth repeating what 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman said last month about pairings and the alpha-dog nature of the world’s best players. He was talking about Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge, when Immelman said pairings matter, even in off season events.

“When you are the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Immelman said. “They want to show this guy, `This is what I got.’”

A victory with Johnson in the field just two weeks after Johnson won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in an eight-shot rout will get the attention of all the elite players.

A victory also sets this up as a January for the ages, making it the kind of big-bang start the game has struggled to create in the shadow of the NFL playoffs.

Johnson put on a tour-de-force performance winning in Hawaii and the confident young Spaniard Jon Rahm is just a shot off the lead this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia is just two off the lead going into the final round of the Singapore Open. Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines next week.

To be sure, McIlroy has a lot of work to do Sunday.

Yet another rising young talent, Thomas Pieters, shares the lead with Ross Fisher. Fleetwood is just two shots back and Johnson five back.

McIlroy has such a good history at Abu Dhabi. Over the last seven years, he has finished second four times and third twice. Still, even a strong finish that falls short of winning bodes well for McIlroy in his first start of the year.

“I have never won my first start back out,” McIlroy said.

A strong start, whether he wins or not, sets McIlroy up well for the ambitious schedule he plans for 2018. He’s also scheduled to play the Dubai Desert Classic next with the possibility he’ll play 30 times this year, two more events than he’s ever played in a year.

“I’m just really getting my golf head back on,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been really pleased with that.”

A victory Sunday will make all our heads spin a little b it with the exciting possibilities the game offers this year.

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Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 3:06 pm

SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.

The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.

Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.

Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.

''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''

The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.

''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''

Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.

''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.

Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.

Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.

Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.

He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.

Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.