Propelled by back-to-back rounds of 65 on Royal Kā‘anapali, Nanea Golf Club’s Juan Rodriguez and Hunter Larson defeated Kapalua Golf Academy’s Ben Hongo and Douglas Bohn in the first playoff hole to win the 2023 Kā‘anapali Pro-Pro Championship Presented by Golf Concepts.
“My modus operandi on hole 18 when we had a chance to get into a playoff was to bring it home for Juan,” said Hunter Larson, PGA Director of Instruction in a news release. “It’s such a cool story to see him win on the same course that his uncle (Chi Chi Rodríguez) did years ago on the Senior PGA TOUR.”
The winner of 37 worldwide professional events, Chi Chi Rodríguez captured eight PGA TOUR and 22 PGA TOUR Champions titles. He won the first two years of the Senior SKINS Game at Kā‘anapali in 1988 and 1989.
The Big Island duo is no stranger to the winner’s circle. Larson was the 2022 Aloha Section PGA Player of the Year and 2018 Aloha Section winner in the National Car Rental Assistant PGA Championship. Rodriguez, a longtime veteran in Hawai‘i golf, won the 2017 E-Z-GO Facilities Team Championship.
Rodriguez, the PGA Assistant Professional at Nanea Golf Club said, “Today I was just trying to hit the ball as good as I could. I got lucky the first few holes and made some birdies that kept us going.”
Playing partner Larson added, “My strategy for about 10 holes in the final round was just watching this guy play great golf. Juan played amazing on the front nine. We lost a little momentum on 10 and couldn’t keep it going when Doug (Bohn) was playing so good behind us. Our strategy quickly turned to, ‘Okay, we need to start making birdies or we’re going to lose this.’”
Rodriguez said, “I have played with Hunter many times. One thing that I believe the most when you play as a team is not to get too involved in what other people are doing – just let them be who they are. The more you behave like yourself, the better the results are.”
Larson continued, “There were holes where Juan could be more aggressive and I could make a par and hold us in there, and other times when Juan would just hit the right shots, allowing me to be aggressive. Yesterday, I did a good job of getting hot and making a few birdies. Today, Juan took the reins. My job was to make as many pars as I could so he could be as aggressive as he wanted.”
Hongo and Bohn of Kapalua Golf Academy came in second place after the playoff with a two-day total of 12-under-par. Antonio Aranda (Kapalua Bay GC) and Dawn Kaneshiro (pro) placed third.
Defending champions Chris Shimomura (Golf Assistant at Kā‘anapali) and Kevin Shimomura (Ko Olina) finished fourth in the 36-hole four-ball stroke play event. The Shimomura brothers scored a skin in the final round with an eagle on the par-5 9th hole.
“We were delighted to return to Kā‘anapali for this storied tournament,” said Wes Wailehua, executive director of the Aloha Section PGA. “The West Maui layout provided a great challenge to many of our state’s best PGA Professionals.”
2023 marked the 17th time that Kā‘anapali has hosted the Pro-Pro Championship. As noted by Karl Reul, general manager of Kā‘anapali Golf Courses, “It’s great for our community to be able to see the state’s best compete in this annual event.” Reul added, “The Royal Course is a true test of the player’s skills. Up until the 18th hole – you can never count anyone out until that final putt is made. Having a playoff between two great teams certainly made it exciting for everyone to watch.”
“As the provider of Kā’anapali Golf Courses’ brand-new fleet of E-Z-GO carts, we were proud to support the 2023 Pro-Pro Championship” said Jay Hinazumi, president of Golf Concepts, based on Oʻahu. “We hope the Pro-Pro tournament continues to flourish for years to come.”