Na rolls to repeat
KAPALUA – Understandably, Grace Na is a little sad that Wednesday was her last competitive round as a college golfer at the Kapalua Bay Course.
The Pepperdine senior cruised to her second straight Anuenue Spring Break Classic title with a 3-under-par 69 that gave her an 11-under total of 205, eight strokes in front of runner-up Betty Chen of UC Davis.
The Waves also won the team championship, closing with a 1-over 293 to finish at 6-over 870, nine shots in front of Washington. Hawaii (309) finished 12th in the 15-team field at 924.
Na has simply dominated the event for the last two years – she won by five strokes in 2013, and this year bettered her own tournament record for the 3-year-old event by a stroke.
“I don’t know, I got a little bit lucky – I really like this golf course,” Na said after her sixth college title. “It’s a challenging golf course, it’s hard to pay attention with the ocean in the background. The wind definitely has its fair share of challenges. For me, I don’t personally practice on Bermuda, so the Bermuda greens were a bit challenging, but it looks like I got the hang of it.”
Chen (71) and Washington’s Jennifer Yang, who closed with a 72 to finish at 215, were the only other golfers to finish under par.
On her final hole, Na turned to Pepperdine assistant coach Leanne Craig.
“I was, like, ‘Coach Leanne, this is my last shot into my last Hawaii green ever,’ ” Na said. “But it’s time to move on.”
Na is one semester away from graduation and will compete in the LPGA Qualifying School in August, but first will try for her third West Coast Conference title and a spot in the NCAA championships.
“I had a couple good opportunities in the last couple tournaments and I didn’t really finish it up until now, so this will give me a little boost of confidence,” she said. “It is also a good reminder to keep doing what I’m doing.”
Na, ranked 14th in the NCAA by Golfstat.com, said she isn’t sure what makes her so tough on the Bay Course.
“Honestly, it might be the beach right next to it and tanning and swimming in the ocean,” she said. “But this course really requires ball striking. With the wind you have to know how to control where to land it, how much wind you are going to play on what kind of shot. Short game is huge.”
The Waves are ranked 15th by Golfstat.com, four spots behind Washington.
“We are playing good at the right time and beating Washington was huge today,” Na said. “I was actually more focused on the team than my
win today. We worked hard and it’s a good time for us to do this.”
Pepperdine will try for its 16th WCC title next month in Bremerton, Wash. The NCAA regionals are scheduled for May 8-10.
“We’ve played well here the last couple of years, but to come out and actually win the tournament, it’s really exciting for us,” said Waves coach Laurie Gibbs. “Grace played excellent, the players played really solid. It was a real team effort, everybody contributed and it really gives us confidence going into postseason.”
Liana Otake, a 2010 Maui High School graduate playing as an alternate for UH, ended her college golf career with a 78 to finish at 237, tied for 62nd.
“I’m not playing that well right now and I’ve had a shoulder injury for over a year now,” Otake said. “So, I’m just trying to hang in there. That’s what my dad said to me coming in, ‘Just hang in there.’ “
The Rainbow Wahine will send four freshmen and a sophomore to the Big West tournament next month. Otake will concentrate on finishing her managing information systems degree in the next year.
“I kind of had a feeling that this was my last tournament because all year I haven’t been playing well and these girls are playing well, my teammates,” Otake said. “I’m really OK with it. They are playing better than me.”
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com
Anuenue Spring Break Classic
Wednesday’s Final Round
At Kapalua Bay Course
Pepperdine ……… 290-287-293-870 ….. +6
Washington ……… 290-290-299-879 ….. +15
UC Davis ………….. 298-296-296-890 ….. +26
San Jose St. …….. 296-307-296-899 ….. +35
Mississippi ……….. 303-302-299-904 ….. +40
Santa Clara ………. 301-301-306-908 ….. +44
Colorado …………… 301-303-305-909 ….. +45
Fresno St. ………….. 308-306-296-910 ….. +46
Oregon St. …………. 307-303-306-916 ….. +52
Long Beach St. ….. 309-306-302-917 ….. +53
Cal Poly ……………… 317-306-298-921 ….. +57
Hawaii ………………… 307-308-309-924 ….. +60
UC Riverside ……… 316-316-301-933 ….. +69
Nevada ………………. 320-313-302-935 ….. +71
Seattle ……………….. 318-307-312-937 ….. +73