Alina Ching is the latest to give us a glimpse into a golf world where there seems to be no age or gender barriers. The golf ball, as anyone who has played the game, has a mind of its own.
A breathtaking eagle on one of Oahu Country Club’s toughest – and most dreaded – holes yesterday propelled Ching into the history books of Hawaii’s oldest golf tournament. The incoming Punahou senior defeated Gary Petersmeyer, 5 and 4, to become the first female to reach the third round of the Manoa Cup.
This is the 102nd year of Hawaii’s amateur match play championship. Michelle Wie reached the second round in 2002, at age 12.
"The truth is, she’s a better golfer than I am," said Petersmeyer, a 63-year-old non-resident member at OCC. "I might have been able to put some pressure on her in match play, but she hits some shots I can’t hit.
"I don’t mind being beaten by a better player and she’s a better player. And she’s a sweet kid. … She beat the pants off me."
Former champs Brandan Kop, who turns 50 this year, and Jonathan Ota, 48, won impressively. Ota, general manager of Kauai’s landmark Tip Top Cafe and Motel, beat Reese Suzuki, 6 and 4. Ota won seven holes in a 10-hole span starting at No. 4. Kop won Nos. 8, 9 and 10 to take control before closing out Corey Kozuma, 4 and 2.
The only other past winner left is defending champ TJ Kua, a University of Hawaii junior, who takes on Ching today at 7 a.m. Kua ousted Bradley Shigezawa, 2-up, in yesterday’s first match.
The difference going into the final hole was Kua’s eight-foot birdie putt on the 16th. Shigezawa missed three birdie putts within 10 feet on the front nine that would have won holes.
"TJ is just a good player all-around. He’ll beat you any way," Shigezawa said. "If he’s hitting the ball well that day then he’ll shoot really well. If not, he’ll scramble around. Today was not an excellent ball-striking day for him, but his score is good (even par) and he gets it done. His putting is always pretty good, so he’s a tough player."
Shigezawa, headed for Northwestern on a golf scholarship in September, played on the Punahou golf team with Alina’s brother Alex, who won the 100th Manoa Cup. Kua, from Kauai, has been staying with the Chings the last few years when he came over for Manoa Cup.
"It’s going to be scary because I know how good they (Shigezawa and Kua) are, and they’ve played a lot with my brother …," Alina Ching said after her match was the first to end. "It’s hard when they are reaching all the par-5s in two and I’m hitting a couple more clubs in all the time."
Alex Ching is in Scotland this week. He qualified for match play at the British Amateur – beating out more than 200 or Europe’s best – but lost his first-round match.
His sister, who has orally committed to Pepperdine for 2011-12, has simply sizzled. She chipped in from 30 yards on the first hole against Petersmeyer for birdie, then birdied the second to go 2-up.
Petersmeyer hung on and cut his deficit to 1-up through 10 holes. He three-putted the 11th before hitting a brilliant approach shot that stuck three feet from the 12th hole.
Ching, 115 yards out, grabbed her 7-iron and ripped a low line drive straight up the hill. It landed on the front of the green and the pin appeared to suck the ball into the hole for eagle.
Petersmeyer got to the top of the hill, confirmed Ching’s spectacular shot, and jokingly asked caddie Chris McLachlin to take a picture of "the first birdie I ever had on this hole."
McLachlin, whose son Parker plays on the PGA Tour, called Ching’s game "Kono-like," in reference to UCLA’s Stephanie Kono, who won the Hawaii State Women’s Match Play championship at OCC when she was just 11 and is now an All-American at UCLA.
In other matches, Michael Fan ousted 15-year-old Kalena Preus, 4 and 3, while Sean Maekawa held off 14-year-old Skye Inakoshi and David Saka ended 13-year-old Donny Hopoi’s Cup hopes. Those matches ended 1-up.
Maekawa, the 2009 state high school champion for Honokaa, was 4-up after eight holes before Inakoshi battled back to win Nos. 9, 10 and 11. Inakoshi could never catch up and neither could Hopoi, despite winning Nos. 15, 16 and 17 with birdie.
Bou-An Fujieki also built a big lead and held on against Iolani junior Lorens Chan, winning 4 and 3. Chan eagled the 14th before Fujieki’s birdie the next hole ended it.
Other winners were David Fink, Colton Knedler, Todd Rego, Ryan Lloyd, Hunter Larson, Max Bonk, Reo Saito and Isaac Jaffurs.
All tee off today after Kua and Ching, a pairing which offers all kinds of intrigue. Last year, Kua plowed through all his opponents, never trailing all week – with an asterisk. He played a practice match against Alina Ching, an OCC member, the day before the Manoa Cup began.
"It was the only match I lost last year," Kua recalled. "She’s a great player and I just need to stay on my toes a little bit and make sure she doesn’t sneak in."