The intrigue began at the very top of the bracket.
TJ Kua found himself opening his defense of the Manoa Cup title against the player he outdueled over 36 tension-filled holes in last year’s final.
Turned out the twist to open this week’s state amateur match-play championship was just the prelude to an eventful first round at Oahu Country Club.
"That was probably the most ironic thing that’s happened in my life," Kua said of meeting fellow Kauai product Layne Morita yesterday in the first round of the 102nd Manoa Cup.
"I thought a lot about (last year’s final) and I just had a good laugh because the chances of it happening are so slim and somehow it turned out that way."
Kua ultimately survived an undulating rematch with Morita, rallying from 2 holes down to eventually go 2-up before seeing that lead evaporate by the time they reached the 14th tee.
But errant drives by Morita, hampered by a sore wrist, sailed into the trees along the right side of the 14th and 15th fairways. and Kua advanced with a 3 and 2 victory to set up a tough second-round matchup with Bradley Shigezawa this morning.
With the myriad twists and turns Kua and Morita endured, their match set the tone for a remarkable day at OCC that also featured …
CHING ONLY SECOND FEMALE TO ADVANCE
Females have qualified for the Manoa Cup four times. Here’s how they’ve fared:
2001-Michelle Wie lost to Doug Williams 3 and 2 in the first round.
2002- Wie defeated Sam Oishi 4 and 2 in the first round, lost to Del-Marc Fujita in 20 holes in the second round.
2005-Mari Chun lost to Raymond Tendo 1-up in the first round.
2010-Alina Ching defeated Dick Sieradzki 4 and 3 in the first round, faces Gary Petersmeyer today in the second round.
» … another breakthrough for Alina Ching.
The Punahou senior-to-be joined Michelle Wie as the only females to reach the Manoa Cup’s second round with a 4-and-3 win over Dick Sieradzki.
Sieradzki won the Manoa Cup in 1990, three years before Ching was born. After shaking off some early-morning nerves, Ching edged out to a lead and was 2-up after a chip-in birdie from behind the green on the par-3 seventh.
From her uphill lie, Ching could barely see the flag, but "I just knew where I wanted to hit it, which I didn’t, but it worked out all right."
» … some savvy advice from a familiar figure.
Gary Petersmeyer, protecting a 1-up lead against Scotty Yamashita going into the 18th hole, pushed his tee shot into the trees along the right side. With a tough lie and 170 yards to the green, Petersmeyer’s caddie – famed volleyball coach and TV commentator Chris McLachlin – made his lone suggestion of the day.
"I was going to hit a 6-iron and try to cut it, and McLachlin said, ‘Why don’t you hit your driver under the tree,’ and it was a great call," said Petersmeyer, whose friendship with McLachlin dates back to 1964 when they played basketball together at Stanford.
Petersmeyer’s shot from under the limbs caught a branch but had enough steam to reach the front fringe of the green. Eventually, Yamashita’s birdie putt burned the left edge of the cup, and the 63-year-old Petersmeyer made a 3-footer for par to close the match and earn a spot against Ching in the second round.
"That’ll be so much fun," said Petersmeyer. "For me, this was gift, I made all these putts, I get to play in this tournament. I’ll try to give this young lady some competition (today)."
» … a dramatic comeback, almost.
Down two holes with two to play, Cole Yamane pulled out a birdie-birdie finish to extend his match with Bou-An Fujieki to extra holes. But Fujieki stuck his tee shot on the par-3 11th, the 20th hole of the match, within 10 feet of the cup and survived to face Lorens Chan today.
"It’s a tough bracket," Fujieki said. "But it should be tough."
» … and, finally, a hole-in-one.
Jared Sawada, trailing Elliot Le by two going into the 16th hole of his match, needed to make a move at the 147-yard par 3 seventh.
"I hit a pretty good 7-iron, probably one of the best shots I hit today, and I was walking up the hill and they told me it was in the hole and I was like, ‘Sweet,’ " Sawada said.
The ace kept Sawada alive, but Le ended up winning the match on the next hole. Still, Sawada could leave OCC with a bit of consolation.
"That was my very first one," he said. "I feel a lot better after the round instead of just having a loss."