Publinx qualifier is a grind — but not for long


By KEVIN JAKAHI

Tribune-Herald sports writer

Putts need to be made, but endurance and patience are equally important for golfers fighting for the two berths at the U.S. Amateur Public Links championship local qualifier.

“They walk all 36 hole and carry their bags. It’s a long day and you need a lot of patience,” head official Lance Taketa said. “You have to save your good stuff for the last 18 holes. A lot of people play OK in the morning, but as the legs tire they falter at the end.

“You’ve got to be in good condition and know how to play 36 holes. Bogeys will not kill you. You have to make a lot of pars and hopefully some birdies to offset the bogeys and you’ll be fine.”

It figures that collegiate golfers such as UH-Hilo’s Dalen Yamauchi and Ric Yamamoto have a slight edge because they’re used to carrying their bags over several days. Yamauchi was an alternate last year, but advanced to the national publinx.

The 88th edition of the APL, the tourney’s formal nickname, will be held July 15-20 at Laurel Hills Golf Club in Lorton, Va.

One golfer different from everyone in the field of 40 is Nani Yanagi, the only female. The 2012 Waiakea graduate just completed her freshman season at Washington State. Last year, she competed at the women’s national publinx.

Recent Waiakea graduate Ciera Min won a spot at the local qualifier on Kauai for the women’s publinx. The WAPL is scheduled June 17-22 in Norman, Okla. She also qualified in 2011. Then she’ll head to Gonzaga on a golf scholarship.

There’s probably no better way to earn a golf scholarship than to showcase yourself at a national tournament like the APL. Sean Maekawa, a 2007 Honokaa graduate who qualified five times for the APL, credited his trips for his University of Oregon scholarship. He’s now playing on the Gateway Tour.

One name to watch is Waiakea sophomore-to-be Trevor Hirata, who shot 80-83 to finish 27 shots back at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state championship.

However, his opportunities are limited. The United States Golf Association will retire the APL and WAPL championships after the 2014 season. Four-ball national tourneys will replace both because, in part, the USGA claimed that format is gaining in popularity.

“We haven’t set up a committee yet. I don’t know if they’re going to have one four-ball qualifier on Honolulu or if our island will be offered something,” Taketa said. “They haven’t discussed anything with us.

“Unfortunately, this publinx is the second to last time. We’ll see what we can do to change the minds of the USGA officials at the national committee meeting. It’s very difficult to change their minds when they do something like this.

“That’s too bad. It’s a big blow to public golf. Basically, it’s our only chance to get in a national championship. The bad part is golf is slowly turning into a rich man’s game again. This kind of golf is pure amateur.”

It’s fitting that Yanagi is competing in the publinx. She was part of Waiakea’s run of capturing the last 10 Big Island Interscholastic Federation girls titles. Like the APL, the state of BIIF golf, especially for girls, is on shaky ground.

The Warriors only had three girls golfers: Andi Igawa, Shaina Mizusawa and Min, who repeated as the BIIF individual champion, continuing Waiakea’s 10-year individual streak. Yanagi won the league title in 2010. Igawa is the only returning golfer.

“The game of golf is really suffering,” Taketa said. “Children watching their parents play, that’s how we grew up and got into it. We’re trying to do things to stimulate the game with the local PGA. Golf is a great game. It teaches kids a lot of values, integrity, honesty, all that good stuff.

“Hopefully, there will be other tourneys to take the place of the publinx and public golf will still thrive. That’s the key. We need to have public golf thrive. We’re trying our best to keep it alive.”

Meanwhile, the weather forecast on Saturday calls for 30 percent chance of rain. Otherwise, it’s supposed to be sunny. It will be a long day of walking for a field of 40, hoping to follow Taketa’s words of wisdom: save their best golf for the last 18 holes and do their best to make public golf thrive.

Golf

What: U.S. Amateur Public Links championship qualifier

When: 7 a.m. Saturday, 36 holes

Where: Hilo Muni

Field: 40 players

Skinny: Two berths; Dalen Yamauchi returning qualifier

Tee times

7 a.m.: Henri Aki, Arnold Tengan, Clyde Kojiro, Eric Tao

7:06 a.m: Clayton Amuro, Chris Igawa, Casey Tamura, Dalen Yamauchi

7:12 a.m.: Russell Paiva, Gary Cooper, Virgil Inocencio, Jason Miyazono

7:18 a.m.: Ric Yamamoto, Ryley Chong, Pono Yanagi, Trevor Hirata

7:24 a.m.: Nani Yanagi, Shon Katahira, Preston Ching, Jay Hegland

7:30 a.m.: Douglas Oki, Lorin Tamashiro, Warren Arakaki, Elston Takayama

7:36 a.m.: Jason Arbles, Kuakini Baltero, Shaun Downie, Brett Furutani

7:42 a.m.: Jeramy Park, Colin Hashiro, Daryl Yagi, Davin Yagi

7:48 a.m.: John Bartholomew, Dominique Civitano, Tevita Duituturaga, Tracy Kitamura

7:54 a.m.: Jon Jacobs, William Schwartz, Jin Soo Iida, Chris Paulachak

 

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