From the PGA
Aloha, PGA HOPE: Hawaii’s Military Community Embraces Golf With Open Arms
By Hayden Lewis, PGA
Sometimes in life, you have no choice but to be the first.
The United States is fortunate to have thousands of service members who embrace being first – whether it’s the men who stormed the beaches of Normandy, the first women who graduated from the elite and rigorous U.S. Army Ranger School, or the Marines who raised the flag on Iwo Jima. These stories inspire us to take the first step in our own lives into uncharted waters.
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For PGA Professionals Scott Reinhart and Kevin Shimomura, these uncharted waters are where they thrive to introduce golf, but also bring it into one’s life by letting them see the potential in themselves. That has now led to the duo, with over 20 years of combined expertise, establishing the first two PGA HOPE programs in the Aloha PGA Section.
Encompassing all the Hawaiian Islands, the Aloha PGA was tailor-made to become a new home for a program like PGA HOPE. Nearly 100,000 Veterans call Hawaii home, in addition to the over 44,000 active duty personnel at military installations for the four branches of service. A military reverence flows throughout the islands, too, with the historic 25th Infantry Division and Pearl Harbor National Memorial.
At its core, PGA HOPE introduces golf to Veterans and Active Duty Service Members – whether they are brand new to the game or returning to it. The program is free and led exclusively by PGA Professionals and Associates who are trained in adaptive golf and military cultural competency.
Reinhart, a PGA Master Professional in Teaching & Coaching, says his passion has always been to engage larger communities in the game of golf. In his role as PGA Director of Programs for First Tee - Hawaii on Maui, Reinhart uses golf to instill life lessons in everyone he coaches. He’s brought the same mindset to the new PGA HOPE program at the Dunes at Maui Lani – the only links-style course on the island situated in the shadow of the Haleakalā volcano.
“I hear the comment, ‘Thanks for giving us a reason to get out of the house’ quite a bit,” says Reinhart. “I truly get so much out of my time working with Veterans. While golf gives them an opportunity to be outside and with each other, I get to spend a part of my day taking a step back and catching my breath a little.
“The time with them really puts things into perspective for me and I’m so grateful for that.”
Shimomura, who serves as PGA Director of Player Development at Ko Olina Golf Club on Oahu, is a decorated PGA Member, receiving over ten professional and playing awards including recognition from Golf Digest’s “Best Teachers” list. Yet he remembers feeling like he wasn’t fit for leading the program initially.
“Honestly, I was really nervous going into our first session,” says Shimomura. “I don’t have that much background with the military, but at the time I was the only PGA Professional on the island who was PGA HOPE-certified so we decided on hosting our first session at Ko Olina with five Veterans.”
Shimomura explains that he was apprehensive about who would show up to the inaugural session. Having no idea what type of students he would be working with, he dove in head-first realizing along the way that these Veterans are also jumping into something new and unfamiliar.
“They’re all so great,” he adds. “They’re just trying to be better – like we all are.”
Similarly, Reinhart has taken inspiration from his participants and knows PGA HOPE is a great way for him to give back.
“The joy that our Veterans express during PGA HOPE is something that I think every golfer experiences in their own way,” explains Reinhart. “I wouldn't be where I am today without the help of other PGA Professionals, and I want to make sure these Veterans experience all the same great things that come with playing golf.”
As 2023 begins, it’s a time to reflect and think about how we are going to make our own impact this year in the lives of others – how we can be the “first.” For PGA HOPE to find its place in the Hawaiian islands, all it took was two PGA Professionals who first wanted to share their talents.
Now Kevin Shimomura, Scott Reinhart and PGA HOPE’s impact will only continue to grow through the military community that permeates the Aloha PGA Section. They just needed to take the first step.
“It’s become a true team effort,” explains Reinhart. “On Maui, other facilities have started to lend a hand to provide access to the Veterans who graduate from PGA HOPE. We hope this rotation can continue and other PGA Professionals want to jump in, too.”
Adds Shimomura: “For us coaches, it’s all about providing a fun atmosphere. If we can do that with PGA HOPE there is no doubt we will continue to see success throughout Hawaii.”
Learn more about PGA HOPE at pgareach.org.