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No more Manoa magic as Ching falls to defending champion Kua

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Alina Ching launched her shot on the first hole yesterday during her match with defending Manoa Cup champion TJ Kua. Ching, who is the only female to advance to the third round of the event, chopped a four-hole deficit to two on the back nine before Kua's birdie won it.
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Sean Maekawa advanced to today's quarterfinals. Maekawa beat Brandan Kop on the final hole.
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Colton Knedler advanced to today's quarterfinals. Knedler birdied the 16th and 17th to oust Todd Rego, 1-up.
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TJ Kua advanced to today's quarterfinals.

Alina Ching was the odd woman out and Jonathan Ota the last "older" man standing after yesterday’s third round of the 102nd Manoa Cup, at Oahu Country Club.

Defending champion TJ Kua put a sudden halt to Ching’s historic run, winning their match 4 and 3. Ching, who will be a senior at Punahou in the fall, is the first female to reach the third round of Hawaii’s state amateur championship and only the second to win a match.

Michelle Wie won her first-round match in 2002, at age 12. Marissa Chow, Mari Chun and Anna Umemura did not qualify for match play, with a triple-bogey keeping Chow out Monday.

Ching found herself 4 down at the turn yesterday. Kua, a University of Hawaii junior, was 2 under par at the time.

She birdied the 10th and 13th to cut her deficit in half, missing another chance when she three-putted the 11th to tie. Kua closed her out with birdies on the last two holes, sticking his approach shot to 5 feet on the 14th and two-putting the par-5 15th.

"That birdie on 14 settled me a little," Kua said. "She had the momentum going into that hole, and I didn’t want to go down 17 and 18 shaking. That birdie on 14 was pretty huge for me."

So was his putting. Kua, who took a lesson from his uncle – Hawaii Golf Hall of Fame member David Ishii – last week at home on Kauai, missed just one " I thought I should have made." He drained pretty much everything inside 10 feet. Ching, who has verbally committed to Pepperdine for next year, could not cope, but had no regrets.

"It was a good experience," said Ching, whose training included running OCC’s extremely steep back nine. "At the college level the courses are longer and I’ll be playing against better people, having to make shots. This was good."

Ota is the only other former champ remaining after University of Oregon senior Sean Maekawa beat four-time champ Brandan Kop on the final hole. Ota, 48, is also the oldest golfer left, by a couple of decades.

He overcame Moanalua graduate David Saka, who will play for UH in the fall. Saka lost the 15th when he hit of bounds. Ota took his first lead since the fifth hole when he rammed in a 25-foot birdie at the 16th. He held on with pars on the final two holes.

Kop, a year older than Ota, squared his match with Maekawa with a birdie on the 17th. Neither golfer was ever up more than one in a match that probably came down to an inch: Kop’s approach shot at the 18th landed on the green, but spun back, stopped at the top of the slope, then toppled down.

"I hit it where I wanted, but it just sucked back off the green …," said Kop. "I thought it was going to be good, about pin high. Just a little bit harder."

Maekawa, a four-time BIIF champion who won the 2007 state high school title, started using a long putter 2 1/2 months ago, at the urging of Oregon coach Casey Martin. Kop called him fearless with it yesterday, making every 3- and 4-footer.

Maekawa needed them all, with Kop playing like … well, the legendary Kop family plays. He missed two tee shots on par 3s and got up and down from 55 yards both times.

"I got to see the famous short game today," said Maekawa, playing his first Cup since 2002. "When you play Brandan you have to expect he’s going to get up and down from pretty much anywhere."

Hawaii Prep graduate Max Bonk, who just played his second NCAA Division III nationals for Pacific University, might have had the toughest draw. He played the back nine in 4 under and still fell to Oregon State sophomore David Fink, 3 and 1.

Fink, who shot 65 in qualifying, finished with eight birdies and a lone bogey. The OCC member didn’t get back from Corvallis until Saturday and says he is still struggling to get used to grainy grass again, particularly when he is chipping.

In other matches:

» Colton Knedler, who played on Punahou’s state championship team a year ago, birdied the 16th and 17th to defeat Todd Rego, 1-up. Both bogeyed the final hole – only the fifth hole they tied.

» Hunter Larson, a 2006 Kealakehe graduate who just got his diploma at UH, reached the quarterfinals in his first Manoa Cup, defeating Ryan Lloyd, 3 and 1. Larson eagled the 15th, hitting two 4-irons to the par-5 green, and also won the next two holes to hold the 15-year-old off.

» Bou An Fujieki beat Reo Saito, 1-up, in an all-ILH battle. Saito surged ahead 1 up by winning Nos. 11, 12 and 13 with par. Fujieki took the lead back by winning the next two holes. After Saito squared the match at the 16th, Fujieki won with par on the 17th.

» Michael Fan won three of the first four holes on the back nine to defeat Isaac Jaffurs, 2 and 1. Fan, Knedler and Fujieki all trained at KMR School of Golf.

Quarterfinals begin at 7 a.m. today, with the winners playing semifinals at noon. Tomorrow’s 36-hole championship also starts at 7 a.m.


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