MAUI HIGH SCHOOL
PHOTO MONTAGE BY WYLIE DUAROSAN / SABER STORIES
Elyse Okada, left, and Kelcie Kawano have parlayed their high school golfing successes into college scholarship offers.
2 golf stars attract scholarship offers
Elyse Okada heads to Oregon while Kelcie Kawano considers UH
On National Letter of Intent Day in February, people are used to hearing about football athletes signing for college scholarships. But Maui High School celebrated that day with two of its female golfing stars, who drew the interest of several college golfing programs.
Senior Elyse Okada will be playing golf for Oregon State University on a full-ride scholarship, and senior Kelcie Kawano plans on playing for the University of Hawaii at Manoa, hopefully on a half-scholarship. Kawano has not yet signed her letter of intent.
"I'm pretty excited and fortunate to receive the scholarship to Oregon State," Okada said.
For the first time, the Maui Interscholastic League held a luncheon for Maui college scholarship recipients on Feb. 6, the National Letter of Intent Signing Day. The majority of scholarships for Maui athletes tend to go to football players. Kawano and Okada were the only athletes from Maui High School invited to the luncheon, where Okada signed her letter for Oregon State. Kawano was still weighing her options that day and did not sign a letter.
The letter of intent is a contract signed by high school senior athletes and their parents in which a financial aid package is given in exchange for the athlete playing at a particular school. Most scholarships are complete, or "full ride."
According to Okada, the recruiting process began two summers ago, and since then, she has received 19 scholarship offers. She narrowed her search to schools that offered a good golf program, solid coaching and aeronautical engineering.
"Academics always comes first, so they are my priority," Okada said. "Golf comes second."
Okada has won the Maui Interscholastic League girls championship for the past three years. In November, she participated in the first USA Hawaii vs. Japan Golf Tournament at Waikoloa King's Golf Course, where she helped the Hawaii team take a 12-10 lead over Japan after a foursome match. Okada also won a singles match over Asako Fujimoto later in the competition.
Kawano was the 2007 state golf tournament runner-up, losing in a playoff after tying for first place with Anna Jang from Punahou.
Last summer, Kawano placed fifth in the girls 15-18 division at the U.S. Army Junior Classic Golf Tournament.
Kawano was selected as the MIL's top player in 2007 after a solid season in which she finished fourth in the league tournament and helped Maui High take second place overall in the team standings.
Both young women believe they received this scholarship attention because of their hard work and dedication on the golf course. Okada and Kawano both started playing golf the summer before sixth grade when their parents signed them up for junior golf.
Both these young women have the potential to play professional golf, if they desire.
"Definitely I'd be interested in that," Okada said,"but I'm going to try after college so if I don't make it, I have an education to fall back on."
Kawano plans to take it one step at a time. Now she is focusing on completing her high school career. College, with her intended major of video game design, will come soon enough.