Growing up in Wailuku, Maui, Chris Armanini dreamed of becoming either a video game engineer or a pilot. Then he started playing golf with his dad and began taking weekly lessons in high school. He enjoyed both the complexity of the game and how much fun it would be to help others learn the game. “In high school I was always the teammate everyone asked to take a look at their swing,” he said. “That’s when I realized I wanted to become a PGA golf instructor or coach,” he said. He accomplished both goals, thanks in large part to learning from Hawaii’s best golf professionals, including Ben Hongo, Eddie Lee, Jerry King, and Bill Greenleaf, and being coached by a Hawaii legends like Earl Tamiya at University Hawaii-Hilo.
Armanini, who has Japanese heritage through his mother, started working for Troon in September of 2016 as an assistant professional at Kapalua’s Bay Course. He then became a teaching professional at the Kapalua Golf Academy in June of 2017. That same year he became head golf coach at Maui Prep, starting with 6 boys on the team. “Now we have 17 boys registered,” he said. “5 completely new to golf and trying it for the first time, 7 up and coming who are shooting around bogey golf, and 5 that as a team would shoot around par to single digits over par.” They recently won their first State Boys Golf Team trophy in the recent 2022 HHSAA event held at Ka’anapali Golf Courses.
For Armanini, who grew up with a martial arts background (after college he trained as an MMA fighter specializing in Jiu Jitsu but was sidelined by a knee injury), the most enjoyable thing about working with student-athletes is feeling that he’s making a difference in each individual’s life. “It could be something as simple as always being there at practice on time, or helping a student fix a slice,” he said. “I’ll never know what makes the biggest difference in each student. But seeing those smiles at the end of a hard-fought season is so worth the time and effort put into the program as a coach. At the end of the day, that is what coaching is all about, to instill life lessons through sports.”
Since January of 2020 Armanini has led a teaching program at Ka’anapali, an Indigo Sports property on Maui and has helped to grow the lessons and junior golf programs exponentially. His dream foursome would include himself, Tiger Woods (“Must talk smack to Phil”), Phil Mickelson (“Must talk smack to Tiger”), and Max Homa (“He brings popcorn and commentary on the Tiger/Phil roast session”).
Armanini considers himself fortunate to have grown up in a multi-cultural community on Maui and uses the lessons he learned there in his current jobs as teacher and coach. “I treat all who step into the lesson area with the respect and aloha that everyone deserves, and when they leave, they have a new friend in their golf journey,” he said. “I share my stories of what golf has done for me and my life, and hopefully that inspires them to pursuing their goals and dreams.”
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