At some point during Tuesday’s super regional, University of Hawaii at Hilo golf coach Earl Tamiya lost track of how Dalen Yamauchi’s round was unfolding.
Turns out Tamiya missed quite a show.
Yamauchi fired a 5-under 67 and was tied for second in Olympia, Wash., putting himself in good position to garner a spot at the NCAA championships.
That’s great, but Yamauchi would like to see some familiar faces if he should get there.
“I’m thinking about the team,” Yamauchi said. “I want them to go.”
Spurred by the sophomore, the Vulcans shot 1-under and were at 577, five strokes out of fifth place heading to the final round. The top five teams earn spots at the national championships. In addition, the top two golfers not on a qualifying team also will make the trip to Hershey, Pa., later in the month.
“We’re in the hunt,” Tamiya said.
Thanks in large part to Yamauchi catching fire on The Home Course. He tied for the best score of the second round with seven birdies to get to 7-under 137, getting within a shot of the lead.
“I don’t know how he did it,” Tamiya said. “I hadn’t see him for awhile, and the next thing I knew he was 5-under par.”
What happened was that Yamauchi, a 2011 Waiakea graduate, said he continued to play some of the best golf of his career.
Coming off a loss in a playoff at the Pacific West Conference championships, Yamauchi opened the regional with a 70 on Monday. He gave a stroke back in bogeying two of his first three holes Tuesday, but he was nearly flawless after that in going bogey-free.
“I just stayed in the moment and didn’t get ahead of myself,” he said. “One shot at time.
“I hit my irons pretty well and capitalized on a few tough putts.”
He birdied Nos. 16-17, and three straight birdies on Nos. 4-6 helped him play his back nine at 4-under.
Kevin Witte (67) from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, which was in a tie for third, was at 8-under, while Dallas Baptist’s Kyle Beard (71), whose team was behind UHH in the team race, was at 7-under. California State-Monterey Bay’s Alex Sobstad (69) was another shot back and Western Washington’s Dylan Goodwin (70) was at 5-under, rounding out the top five.
The rest of the Vulcans’ crew has struggled with their consistency, but they got a big boost Tuesday from Kyten Littel. The freshman often doesn’t shoot low enough to qualify as one of the Vulcans’ four scorers, but he birded two of his final four holes for an even-par 72 and was at 7-over.
“Kyten helped us big-time,” Tamiya said
Junior Corey Kozuma shaved five shots off his opening round with a 73, and junior Chris Shimomura carded a 75 and was at 3-over. However, after starting the day at 2-under, sophomore Jamie Hall slumped to a 79.
“If we can get Jamie and Corey playing well together, we have a chance,” Tamiya said.
Monterey Bay (565) led the team race, four shots ahead of Western Washington. Grand Canyon (571), Colorado Springs (571) and Chico State (572) rounded out the top five. UHH was a shot ahead of Midwestern State and Cal Stanislaus, Dallas Baptist (580) was ninth and Cal State East Bay (582) was 10th.