With the University of Hawaii at Hilo in range of a berth at the NCAA championships, coach Earl Tamiya gave his golfers a message as they approached the par-5 16th: go for it.
And the Vulcans did. Dalen Yamauchi, Chris Shimomura and Corey Kozuma all carded birdies. Jamie Hall and Kyten Littel each made pars.
For Yamauchi, it was the stroke that he needed to advance
For the rest, it still left them a single shot from their goal.
“They’re dejected,” Tamiya said.
Despite coming in with its second straight 1-under 287, UHH fell a stroke short of qualifying during the final round of Wednesday’s super regional in Dupont, Wash.
However, Yamauchi will make the trip to the national championships in Hershey, Pa, securing the second of two individual spots available to golfers on non-qualifying teams. Yamauchi carded a 2-over 74 and placed fifth overall and finished a shot ahead of hard-charging Alex Carpenter (69) of Abilene Christian and Midwestern State’s Santiago Gomez (72).
“With this field, it’s a great accomplishment,” Tamiya said.
UHH was bidding for its first trip to the Division II finals since 2011, which was Yamauchi’s senior year at Waiakea High.
Yamauchi, a sophomore, actually had the worst round among the four scorers for UHH at The Home Course, but he started the day at 7-under and stemmed the tide late with a 2-foot birdie putt on No. 16 and pars on Nos. 17-18.
“I’m just going to go up there and learn from this experience, play hard and see how I do,” said Yamauchi, who had mixed emotions.
“My team really played well enough to qualify. I’m really proud of them.”
The Vulcans brought it on the back nine, with Hall (69), Kozuma (71), Shimomura (73) and Yamauchi combining for only three bogeys.
But California State Stanislaus shot 3-under 285 to leapfrog UHH for the fifth and final spot at 1-under 863.
“We did well, but we didn’t make enough birdies,” Tamiya said. “That’s what we were pushing them to do.”
Western Washington’s Kyle Schrader closed with a 66 to take medalist honors at 10-under.
Hall enjoyed his best round of the tournament, bogeying only one hole to get to 2-over. Shimomura kept his scorecard clean on the back nine and was 4-over, while Kozuma steadied his round after three bogeys on his first nine holes and was 6-over.
“Corey’s round was a roller coaster,” Tamiya said. “Jamie did all right. We expect a lot out of him.”
Littel, who came through with a 72 on Tuesday, finished with a 75 and was 10-over.
California State Monterey Bay (854) edged Western Washington by a stroke, while Pacific West Conference champion Grand Canyon (856) and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (861) rounded out the top four.
The NCAA tournament is scheduled for May 21-24 at Hershey Country Club.