June 23, 2009

Sean Lynch: Devil of a time at golf tourney

ATWATER -- Mark Kaanapu grabs a water and settles into a plastic chair for a brief moment's rest.

The beads of sweat running down the Merced College football coach's face show the amount of work Kaanapu's already put into the day -- and it had nothing to do with playing the Rancho Del Rey Golf Course in the 92-degree heat.

Kaanapu elected not to join the 16 foursomes out on the course for the 15th annual Blue Devil Golf Classic last Friday.

"Nobody wants to see a hippo swinging a golf club," Kaanapu joked. "Seriously, it wouldn't be pretty."

So how did he work up such a sweat?

The new MC coach put in face time with everyone in attendance, took care of the the behind-the-scenes details that kept his first Blue Devil event running smoothly and pretty much just all-around hustled to ensure every detail of the day was addressed.

The golf tournament served as a microcosm for Kaanapu's first five months at the helm of the Blue Devil program.

The former Menlo College coach has barely had time to take a breath as he attempts to move his family to Merced, while getting his program up and ready for the start of school in August.

There's no rest for the weary, either, as the Blue Devils will begin their summer training regiment on Wednesday with several potential incoming freshmen.

That's why a few moments to goof around with tight end Kyle McMillin on the practice green -- as the tournament winded down -- was such a nice reprieve.

"I've been involved in events like this before, but being my first one with this school, I really wanted it to go well," Kaanapu said. "I'm really excited about the turnout.

"One of the reasons I wanted to come to Merced College was the commitment to the community and the community's support back.

"It really shows that even in these tough times, people want this program to be successful and want to give back to it."

With 64 participants in the tournament and hundreds of raffle tickets sold for the event's many prizes, the MC football program earned a nice boon heading into the season.

The quartet of Vic Simon, Art Hernandez, Larry Minetti and Pablo Cruz won the competition, but Kaanapu said the Blue Devils were the big winners.

"I've always liked events like this, because they get people together," Kaanapu said. "You sit down and have a meal together. It allows us to put a face on our program.

"We're trying to change the perception of this program in the community, so this was a very good day."

Sean Lynch is a Sun-Star sports writer. He can be reached at 385-2476 or via e-mail at

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