By BILL O’REAR
Tribune-Herald sports editor
A boost of confidence during the summer seems to have carried over into the fall season for University of Hawaii at Hilo golfer Kristen Sawada.
On Saturday, Sawada, a junior out of Mililani High School on Oahu, claimed the individual title at the St. Martin’s Invitational in Olympia, Wash. She shot rounds of 76 and 74 for a 6-over-par 150 to pocket the crown by two strokes — her first collegiate title as a Vulcan.
Sawada’s 74 on Saturday was the best round of the day — one that included cold weather and fog in the morning — and sparked UHH to a strong runner-up finish behind champion British Columbia University, an NAIA powerhouse.
“Kristen played really consistent golf,” Vulcans coach Jim DeMello said. “It wasn’t an easy round. We had the cold in the morning, in the low 60s, and the fog. It started to warm up around noon and the fog went away. But our girls played well, we had three girls shoot in the 70s.”
As a team, the Vulcans carded a day’s best 311 Saturday and finished three shots behind British Columbia, a team ranked in the NAIA’s top 10 and a perennial small-college power. British Columbia (308-316) finished with a 624 total, followed by UHH (316-311) at 624 on the Tumwater Valley Golf Course.
Vulcan Kacie Harada (77-78) also turned in two sub-80 rounds to finish tied for 5th place at 155.
Other Vulcans included Jade Salvador (12th, 81-78—159); Dayna Bersamin (T17, 82-81—163) and Erika Morihiro (T21, 82-83—165).
“For our first tournament, the girls played good,” DeMello said. “Dayna didn’t play last year, but once she starts feeling more comfortable, I think that she and Kristen will be our leading players this year.”
Sawada won the Waialae Invitational over the summer and DeMello could see a more confident golfer when she returned to UHH.
“She’s been playing more consistent and showed more confidence on the course,” the Vulcans coach said. “When she hits a bad shot, she comes right back to hit a good one. Her brother, Jared, won the Manoa Cup in July and he’s been helping her, especially with the mental part of the game.
“I think her confidence has rubbed off on our other players. But for us to have a good year, everyone needs to step up and play well.”
The Vulcans will play in the Western Washington University Invitational on Monday and Tuesday in Bellingham, Wash.
The teams play a practice round today.