By BILL O’REAR
Tribune-Herald sports editor
University of Hawaii at Hilo women’s coach Jim DeMello would rather his talented team be hungry on the golf course rather than off it.
On Tuesday, the Vulcans showed their hunger for a victory while shooting a red-hot final round 299 and running away to a six-stroke win in the Western Washington Women’s Golf Invitational in Bellingham, Wash.
The Vulcans opened the two-day, 13-team collegiate tournament Monday with a 309 and trailed first-round leader British Columbia (309) by two strokes.
But on Tuesday UHH torched the par 73 Bellingham Golf and Country Club course for a tournament-low 299 and pocketed the team title with a two-round 608 to beat runner-up Bristish Columbia (614).
“It was a fantastic effort today,” DeMello said. “The girls just relaxed and played like they’re capable of. When I told them we had won, they were so surprised that they couldn’t eat their lunch.”
Tarleton State (616) finished third, followed by Grand Canyon (617), Chico State (628), Victoria-BC (633), Western Washington (639), Cal State East Bay (642), Point Loma Nazarene (658), St. Martin’s (666), Montana State Billings (680), Simon Fraser (734) and Northwest Nazarene (758).
“Grand Canyon and Tarleton State went to the nationals last year and are strong teams,” DeMello said. “This win gives our girls more confidence and they now know they can compete against anyone in the conference.”
British Columbia’s Casara Hong (147) captured individual medalist honors, holding off UHH’s Kacie Harada (73-76—149) who placed second.
“Kacie played well the last two days,” DeMello said. “She hit the ball better and putted better. We need that kind of consistency from her.”
Harada, a junior out of Maryknoll High School on Oahu, led the impressive UHH charge in Bellingham.
But it was the Vulcans’ overall balance that gave them the tournament crown. Rounding out the UHH scores were Erika Morihiro (77-75) and Nyssa Aoki (78-74) who tied for fifth at 6-over-par 152; Kristen Sawada (81-74) who tied for 15th with a 155; and Shannon Abarra (83-84) who tied for 43rd with a 167 total.
“Kristen had a tough day Monday but came back with a 74 today,” DeMello said. “Her score clinched the win, but overall, it was a great effort by the girls. This will give them a lot more confidence heading into the Dennis Rose tournament last this month.”
The Lady Vulcans, along with the UHH men, will next host the Dennis Rose Intercollegiate on Oct. 28-30 at the Waikoloa Beach Resort.