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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, December 28, 2006

Academy boosts Moanalua grad's game

 •  Wilson, Kim rise to the top in 2006

By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer

Jaclyn Hilea

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Jaclyn Hilea took a trio of major titles and more than a few doubts to Hilton Head, S.C., this summer when she enrolled in the International Junior Golf Academy Postgraduate program. She was home for the holidays with a college scholarship to Furman in the fall and no doubts.

The Moanalua graduate, and her golf game, have matured into one of the 11-year-old academy's most compelling success stories.

Hilea's technique has been tweaked and her confidence has soared since she left on the heels of helping Na Menehune to the state high school championship and winning the HSJGA State Open and Hawai'i State Women's Stroke Play Championship.

There have been three more wins on the Mainland and she stands second in the International Junior Golf Tour Merit Points standings. She trains three hours every morning, then has conditioning and often goes out for more practice on her own in the afternoon.

The nerves that nagged her as she moved 5,000 miles away vanished within a month. She has learned she belongs in college golf, and that she can cook and take care of herself.

Hilea's giddy description of the academy is "like college without homework" and she has thrived after getting a solid foundation here under Hawai'i Golf Hall of Famer Lance Suzuki. Her success is precisely what IJGA envisions for its postgraduate students, who come from more than 20 countries. The entire academy now has 130 students between the ages of 12 to 18.

There are 25 in Hilea's Postgraduate program, and they pay $32,250 for the year. That covers instruction, housing at the University of South Carolina-Beaufort south campus, college placement, fitness training, apparel and social activities. IJGA expects twice as many post-graduate students next year.

Hilea would recommend it for anyone serious about a golf future and willing to practice relentlessly toward "perfection."

"I like to golf as much as I can," said the former gymnast, who has been golfing five years. "It's a lot of golf. If you're not really dedicated it would be hard. If you love golf, it's worth it."

Gary Gilchrist, who coached Michelle Wie among others at Leadbetter Academy, is IJGA's Director of Golf. He developed the program and has 12 pros.

Dick Wedzik is Hilea's coach. He characterizes her as driven, focused, coachable, ultra competitive and at an average of 260 yards off the tee extremely long. Her short game has also matured into a creative asset.

"I remember one of the first days of training, when I was observing a student next to her, Jackie hit a shot and the sound it made wasn't the same sound that I am used to hearing from your average girl," Wedzik recalled. "When she hit her first driver, I knew she was someone special."

Reach Ann Miller at amiller@honoluluadvertiser.com.