By KEVIN JAKAHI
Hilo senior Davin Yagi already knows what second place feels like. Since his freshman year, the Vikings have always finished second for the Big Island Interscholastic Federation team championship. But for the first time in a long time, that title race is wide open.
Yagi shot a 2-over-par 74, finishing second to Hawaii Prep senior Andrew Paisley for medalist honors in the BIIF season opener on Wednesday at Hilo Municipal Golf Course, but helping Hilo claim the team victory with a 322 total.
It was another second for Yagi, but at least a better feeling with the Hilo team victory.
First place is worth six points in the team standings. Second place is four points, third is three points and so forth. Waiakea, which has captured the last nine BIIF crowns, was second with a 350 total.
The Warriors have a promising freshman in Trevor Hirata, who shot a 75 in his BIIF debut. He’s short, standing just 5 feet, 6 inches, but blasts his driver a long way and has a nice package of tools. He scrambles like a veteran, chipping with a soft touch to stay in the ballgame.
He was knocking on the door for his first BIIF medalist honor, until the last hole, where he three-putted. Still, Hirata soaked everything in, the good and the bad.
“It was good, except for the last couple of holes,” he said.
It could be a dogfight for the BIIF individual championship with Paisley, Ryley Chong, Yagi and Hirata. The race for the BIIF team title will be equally exiting as well.
“I think we’ll be in the mix for the BIIF team title,” Hilo coach Randy Pak said.”If there’s a chance, it’s got to be this year. Waiakea is retooling this year. I have three seniors (Yagi, Liam Tsue and Joshua Kitagawa) and what I like most is they’ve been together a long time. They’re really close and work hard at their games. They love the sport and all have been golfing for four years (on the team).”
Kitagawa finished with an 84, Tsue an 85 and junior Casey Nakatsu had a good day with a 79.
“Davin has a good all-around game,” Pak said. “He’s a very strong player. I expect him to contend for the BIIF title. I think he’s one of the top golfers.
“You’ve got to be able to play in the rain in Hilo, and the schedule kind of favors the Hilo teams. We start at Hilo, go to Volcano and to Hilo again. That kind of sets it up for us. This year there’s parity and I’m not counting out Waiakea or Kamehameha, which has enough boys.”
Konawaena could be in the mix, too, featuring two strong golfers in Chong, the defending BIIF champion, who shot 76, and Hoeueu Greenwell, who had an 82 and qualified for the three-round BIIF championships last year.
Last season, Brent Nakatani competed in the last three meets and the Wildcats finished first twice and second once. But they didn’t have enough golfers for the other meets to qualify for enough team points. At least, they have someone they can count on in Chong.
“He’s pretty steady as it goes. He’s pretty consistent from tee to green,” Kona coach Jim Wigzell said. “He just needs to make a couple of putts here and there and he’ll be all right. To win the BIIF championship again, it’ll definitely come down to putting for him. He has to be consistent with his putter for sure.”
Yagi felt the same way, about his putting, a strength of his game. It was something he lamented on a course that got dripped with an early shower, followed by hot, muggy weather that taxed the golfers with a good workout walk for all 18 holes.
“I thought I played all right,” Yagi said. “My putting wasn’t sharp as usual. I liked my ball-striking today. I’m not taking the team title for granted. We have to play our game. I like the way we fight. We’ve finished second every year, but that’s motivation for us.”
For the girls, Waiakea seniors Ciera Min and Shaina Mizusawa each shot 75 and shared medalist honors while junior teammate Andi Igawa had an 85, three solid scores for a 235 total and the team win.
“That’s a good start,” Min said. “I had a good start with a birdie on the first hole, but I had one bogey too many and my game was not sharp. But I’m glad me and Shaina took first. It was hot today. It started out nice, a little rain, then it got muggy and it turned out to be a nice day as far as weather conditions.”
The walk was grueling for at least one golfer.
“I didn’t play in a tourney so long and I’m not in shape,” Mizusawa said. “But most of the time I have fun and that’s when I do better. That’s what happened. I was tired, but it was fun.”