By KEVIN JAKAHI
It was a fitting scenario for Waiakea senior Kaley Saludares, who recently signed a national letter of intent to play golf at Concordia University at Portland but not before she put in a round of practice at Hilo Municipal.
The two-time BIIF champion held her signing ceremony at Kim’s at Hilo Muni with her dad Regino Saludares, mom Terilyn and stepdad Kevin Hayashi, close friends, and coach Sandra Goodale.
“I feel extremely blessed and excited to be going to college on a golf scholarship,” Saludares said. “My parents and I had been hoping this would happen ever since I got serious about golf.”
Google Concordia University and there are multiple Concordia University locations, such as Canada, California, Portland, and Minnesota.
Saludares is headed to the Concordia University Cavaliers, a Division II school that’s in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. Gabby Ewing, a 2015 HPA graduate, is on the women’s soccer team, which lost in the second round of the NCAA championships.
As good as she is at golf (Saludares was fifth at the HHSAA state meet last year), she’s a much better student. Saludares holds a 4.0 GPA, plans to major in biology and aspires to become a specialized physician.
So the motto, “School comes first,” was a point of emphasis in her college selection. It also helped that her BFF, 2015 Kamehameha graduate Shantel Antonio, is on Concordia’s roster.
“Shantel told me to check out Concordia-Portland, so I did,” Saludares said. “The golf team’s head coach (Kim Dehning) seemed very helpful and determined to get me to the next level in my golf game. And of course a bonus is that my best friend Shantel Antonio will be there as a senior on their golf team (next season), so I will feel right at home.”
Saludares’ connection to the medical field came early, and the body of science has had a strong pull. She’s also dived in the health-care field.
For the past two years, she’s been involved in Health Operations Students of America, which involves medical competitions in order to prepare the next generation of health-care professionals.
“Growing up, I always had really good doctors who made me feel comfortable and want to come back,” she said. “I have also always loved science and have always been interested in the ways the human body functions.”
And while golf may seem like a solitary pursuit, the golf community on the Big Island and around the state are well-connected and nurturing. The Big Island Junior Golf Association and Hawaii State Junior Golf Association are the feeder programs that develop the young golfers and teach them how to fly.
“The golf community across this island is so friendly and supportive, and it makes me feel blessed to live here,” Saludares said. “The two associations have given me the opportunity to play courses across the state that I wouldn’t be able to play otherwise, and they have let me play competitive golf amongst different levels.
“That’s definitely something I will treasure for a lifetime because those opportunities have allowed me to learn and excel at my game. Without these organizations and their never-ending support toward junior golf, I wouldn’t be the golfer I am today. Golf has taught me many things in my 11 years of playing the sport, including patience, endurance, respect, honesty, and composure.”
While only four golfers can draw starts, which makes practices ultra-competitive, Saludares noted that Goodale has created a harmonious team culture.
“A major influence in what I do is my family and high school golf team,” she said. “My team gives me the support and motivation to become a better golfer and individual. We are like one big family. My mom has shown me to be grateful and count my blessings in life. My dad has taught me that time is precious. If you’re going to do something, you better give it your all and more but don’t forget to enjoy the journey.”
The journey is still going with the BIIF and state championships around the corner.
Waiakea recently captured its fourth straight BIIF championship. The Warriors have won the last 14 BIIF individual titles. During that reign, Britney Yada is the only one to pocket three (2007-09).
Saludares has a chance to join Yada and spearhead a strong title run at states. Waiakea has secured three state crowns in 2000, 2002, and 2005. Punahou has grabbed the last five.
“My senior year goal is to place at states as an individual and as a team,” Saludares said. “I know we can do it if we stay relaxed and play our best game.
“A key for me when golfing is to stay in a consistent routine and be patient. Before every shot, I take a deep breath and remind myself to trust my swing.”
She was doing that at practice before her signing ceremony on Thursday at Hilo Muni, the most fitting and comfortable place to be on that day.