Okamura garners Maui Open crown
KAHULUI – The Maui Open had turned into a virtual match-play showdown between the players in Sunday’s last pairing, Garrett Okamura and T.J. Kua.
Okamura’s three-stroke lead to start the day was gone through nine holes, then the pair of former University of Hawaii golfers – Okamura in Hilo, Kua in Manoa – traded two-stroke swings on the 11th and 13th holes at The Dunes at Maui Lani to again find themselves tied.
As he did in birdieing five of the final six holes in the first round, Okamura was stellar down the stretch to claim the title.
“It was pretty close to match play,” said Okamura, the head professional at The Dunes. “Just kind of one-on-one, it was nice. We had a lot of fun, but I personally don’t like that kind of situation.”
Okamura, a 2000 graduate of Baldwin High School, pocketed the $4,000 winner’s check after his 3-over-par 75 left him at even-par 144 for the tournament, two in front of Kua (74), who earned $2,000.
“That’s awesome (to win), I can’t wait to get a drink tonight,” Okamura said. “They are on me.”
It looked like the refreshments might have been on Kua’s tab after Okamura bogeyed the sixth, seventh and eighth holes. Okamura took back a two-stroke lead when he birdied the 11th, but Kua returned the favor when he birdied and Okamura bogeyed the 13th.
Defending champion Alex Chi-arella was four shots back after a 74.
Kua, this year’s Mid-Pacific Open champion, started the day three strokes behind.
“I knew I had a lot of ground to make up, especially on his home turf,” Kua said. “I was trying to hang in there, make him work a little bit.”
Kua bogeyed the sixth hole and birdied the ninth to make the turn at even par. He bogeyed Nos. 14 and 18.
“I had a score in mind that I wanted to reach. That was the end goal, whether it was enough or not,” Kua said. “That is usually how I play.”
Chiarella, a former Seabury Hall standout who begins his sophomore year at the University of San Diego in a month, drew within two of the leaders early on the back nine before bogeys on 16 and 17.
“I’m OK with it, I guess,” Chiarella said. “It’s disappointing, especially after hearing how close I was at the end there. I made a run, birdieing 13 and 14 to get within two, so it’s kind of difficult. I just have high expectations for myself.”
A sore back kept Chiarella off the course for two weeks prior to the event. He has a month before going back to school and the fall season.
“No schedule, I love it,” he said. “I will rest my back. School starts in early September and we leave the day before school starts for a tournament in Chicago.”
Cassy Isagawa, a former Baldwin standout going into her junior year at Oregon, where she has earned All-America honors, shot 72 – tied with Shawn Lu and Ariel Hanson for Sunday’s low round in the championship flight – and finished tied for 10th at 153. The females in the field played from the championship tees.
“I only hit eight greens today, so I made every up-and-down I possibly could,” Isagawa said. “It was awesome out there. I mean I will take anything in the 70s here, 72 is an awesome score for me here. My putts were rolling in for me, everything was great.”
The other division winners were David Braxton (senior flight), Ed Breslow (super senior) and Tom Jezierney (A flight).
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org