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Wednesday, September 17, 2014         

SONY OPEN HAWAII


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Runs at Waialae end for Hawaii's contingent of players

By Jason Kaneshiro

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The local contingent exited the Sony Open in Hawaii earlier than they hoped, but not necessarily empty handed.

For University of Hawaii freshman David Saka, two days playing with the pros offered lessons he hopes to roll into the Warriors' spring season.

"It was just a great experience," Saka said following a rough but educational second round at Waialae Country Club. "I played good the first day, so that was fun, and I learned a lot from the other two guys I played with."

For tour veteran Dean Wilson, a strong back nine could provide some momentum heading into this week's stop.

Both Wilson and Saka entered yesterday's play at 1 over par and saw their hopes of making the cut doused by ragged starts to their rounds.

Wilson carded his second straight round of 71, while Saka struggled to a 77.

Hilo's Kevin Hayashi and veteran Dave Eichelberger, now a Honolulu resident, also finished their runs at Waialae. Hayashi closed with a 71, while Eichelberger, the Aloha Section PGA's professional qualifier, closed with a 78 and completed his 1,256th career start at 154.

After shooting 4 over on the front nine, Wilson steadied himself and went 3 under on the back, with a birdie-birdie finish in front of the home fans at the 17th and 18th greens.

"I just didn't drive the ball well at all on the front side, so I was always in trouble and scraping it around," said Wilson, who leaves for California today in advance of this week's Bob Hope Classic. "Played better on the back, same as (Friday)."

While Wilson hit seven greens in regulation on the back nine, he regularly left himself with lengthy birdie tries, making it difficult to make an even bigger move.

"I know what I need to do to play better; it just seems like I never do it," he said. "At least I putted better this year than I previously I had. I'll look at it and try to draw some positives.

"Just wasn't real sharp. ... There were some good holes, some good putts, some good shots, but too many bad ones."

Saka, one of two amateurs in the field, similarly struggled on the front side and was 5 over for the day when he made the turn. He strung together seven straight pars, saving himself strokes with some nifty wedge work near the greens, and closed the tournament at 8-over 148.

Saka sat out the fall season at UH to rest an elbow injury but earned enough Governor's Cup points to make it into the annual amateur qualifier, which he won on Dec. 27 with a 69 at Waialae.

He turned in a solid 71 on Friday before yesterday's 77 and will next look forward to contributing to the Warriors this spring.

Saka toured the course with Kevin Ralbovsky — his coach for the past six years — as his caddie and his UH teammates tracking his progress outside the ropes.

"The experiences you get playing in a tour event are unmatched," said UH coach Ronn Miyashiro, who also followed Saka the last two days. "You can't get that kind of stuff in college. The caliber of player he was up against, the people he was around all week. These guys do it for a living, so it's a whole different animal."

Hayashi improved on his 5-over-par first-day showing with a 71 yesterday in his first round with the title of Hawaii Golf Hall of Famer.

"That was a blast," Hayashi said of Friday's ceremony. "That was really special."






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