Time well spent

  • Jason Blasco / The Garden Island

    Kapaʻa High School golfer Niki Upson follows through on a drive during a round Saturday afternoon at Kiahuna Golf Course in Po‘ipu.

PO‘IPU — Kapa‘a High School junior Niki Upson took advantage of time away from attending physical school to improve his golf game.

Entering his junior season in the spring of 2020, the most critical season to get noticed, Upson, the junior transfer from Island School, was robbed of his chance to showcase his skills to college coaches.

Tom Freestone, the Professional Golfers Association head golf professional at Princeville Makai Golf Club, worked with Upson his entire golf career, and he stressed the importance of his lost season.

“Your junior year is so critical because you can see a golfer’s game build,” Freestone said. “Golf is a game that takes ability, touch, feel, and takes a want and drive to get better continually. Niki keeps turning up in his athletic ability, and has matured and grown into himself to become a great golfer.”

He only competed in one Kaua‘i Interscholastic Federation event before everything came to a halt.

At the Puakea Golf Course match on March 9 in Lihu‘e, Upson won the competition, besting his next-closest competitor by 11 strokes.

That was the only match of the regular season before the season was suspended in mid-March, and then the Hawai‘i High School Athletic Association canceled spring sports in mid-April.

Utilizing social-media, Upson began perfecting a recruiting video. The site is: vimeo.com/421812278

The goal is to make an immaculate presentation to send to prospective college coaches.

Upson aims to earn a coveted scholarship, which he had more opportunity to work on without the interference of physical school.

“We thought it would be a good idea to send out some letters to coaches before the admission process to introduce myself and get to the know the schools,” Upson said.

Hoping it will help land a scholarship spot at the collegiate level, Upson is working on perfecting his Vimeo.com recruiting video.

“I’ve been able to use some of this down time to focus on finding a school I like,” Upson said. “I am just figuring out what I want to do (with my life), what schools will best fit me, and if they are the right golf school.”

Working with Freestone, Upson focuses on making a significant impact during his senior year by playing every day.

“I keep talking with Tom, and continue to work with him to improve my swing and hone the basics,” Upson said. “I keep on working on my mechanics so I can look better in the video, improve, and work on refining the basics, such as a good swing.”

Freestone feels he has the intangibles, and Upson continues to learn the nuances of the game by volunteering whenever collegiate tournaments travel to Hawai‘i, Freestone said.

“College coaches are looking for a true student-athlete: someone that has a golf swing, has the tools, goes out there and plays the game and performs without tweaking swing flaws,” Freestone said. “They want someone motivated and, honestly, just isn’t going to be a headache to the coach.”

The mental approach college coaches are looking for is what is going to give Upson a competitive edge, when competing with others, Freestone said.

“I work a lot in the development with teaching golfers the mental approach of the game,” Freestone said. “How you do in golf crosses over into business, life and everything else. Niki has the mental process that gives him the ability to be a unique human being outside the golf arena.”


Jason Blasco, sports reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or jblasco@thegardenisland.com.


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