By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Waiakea has only three girls golfers, the minimum number needed for team scoring, but at least the trio is dangerous enough to make noise at the Big Island Interscholastic Federation championships and continue a historic streak.
For team scoring, four golfers compete and the top three scores are taken. For the Warriors, seniors Ciera Min and Shaina Mizusawa and junior Andi Igawa have no room for absence, such as suffering an ill-timed sickness or injury.
The Warriors continue to carry tradition on their back, and churn out good golfers. They have won the last nine BIIF team and individual titles. It’s an honor roll of BIIF champs from Waiakea: Amanda Wilson, 2004; Christine Kim, 2005; Nicole Aoki, 2006; Britney Yada, 2007-09; Nani Yanagi, 2010; Mizusawa, 2011; and Min, 2012.
Igawa is the BIIF runner-up, so all three Warriors know how to play when it gets hot in the kitchen. Waiakea has won everything for a long time. The dual feat title thing — a nice motivational carrot — is really tough.
Consider, the Waiakea boys have won the last nine BIIF titles, too. But there’s been different champions: Konawaena’s Ryley Chong, 2012; Waiakea’s Chad Suzuki, 2011; Kamehameha’s Nainoa Calip, 2008-10; Honokaa’s Sean Maekawa, 2004-07.
Still, the Waiakea girls continue to prosper. Year after year, they extend their stranglehold on the two titles. And every once in a while, they’ll remind the rest of the state just how good Big Island golf is, particularly at Waiakea.
In the 14-year history of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state tournament, Waiakea has won three titles, the last in 2005. The school has produced three individual champs: Melanie Matsumura in 1998, Leah Whiting in 2002 and Kim in 2005.
But suddenly the program is struggling to field a team.
“I’ve gone from five girls last year to three this year,” second-year coach Sandra Goodale said. “I know there’s a gap in junior golf. I’m not sure exactly why. But we’ve got a bunch of seventh graders coming up.”
The spring season is the busiest time of the sports calendar with golf, judo, softball, tennis, track and field, and water polo all competing for student-athletes.
Goodale said three softball girls and two track girls were interested in golf, but conflicting schedules made it too tough to do both.
“When I played in high school our season was in the fall, so you could do both golf and softball,” said Goodale, who grew up in Wisconsin, and spent 22 years in Alaska. “I’m still recruiting girls for Waiakea. It may be a little intimidating for newcomers because we have three good girls. But the girls are willing to help anybody willing to learn.”
Despite the lack of depth and impending pressure that no mulligans are available, the Warriors are mindful that they’ve still got a job to do.
“We’re like sisters, all three of us,” Mizusawa said. “We’ve got a good chance to keep up that tradition. We’re all hard working and I’m confident in us. It’s my senior year and I’m going to compete and have fun while doing it.”
Min is the most accomplished. She finished four shots back of state champion Kacie Komoto, from Punahou, and signed to play at Gonzaga.
Like her golfing sister, Min believes the team will be ready for the BIIF season opener today at Hilo Muni.
“We have three strong individual girls,” she said. “We definitely can pull together, even though we have small numbers.”
Igawa is grateful that Waiakea has three golfers. She knows she may be the only golfer next year, and the team BIIF title streak will be in serious jeopardy. But those are thoughts for another day.
“I’m just glad we can make a team,” she said. “I think we’ll do well as a team and hopefully at states, too.”
Igawa has turned herself into a good golfer. As a freshman, she carded rounds in the 90s. Last season, she won one BIIF match, placed runner-up once, and had three third-place finishes.
At the BIIF championships, Min overcame a four-shot lead and won the title. Igawa shot a 93 and finished 11 strokes back. It was a rough day, but Igawa took it as a lesson of perseverance, and turned it into something positive.
“It gave me the drive that I want to win the BIIF title,” she said. “It made me mentally stronger and more prepared. That’s helped me the most in coming in second. “I’ve been practicing, but I have a lot of studying to do. School comes first.”
Those are fundamentally appropriate words to Goodale, who played college golf at Winona University, a Division II school in Minnesota, and highlighted the good things about the game.
“There are a lot of opportunities for girls in golf these days. You’d be surprised how many universities and colleges have programs and are looking for girls to play for them,” she said. “Golf has the benefit of being a team sport and it recognizes the individual. The contributions benefit both. It’s the best of both, individual and team sport.
“Last year, they learned to have fun at the game, and it not being a job or a chore. They learned that it’s a game and to have fun.”