For David Fink, the waiting was indeed the hardest part.
Sitting out his first year with the Oregon State golf team allowed Fink time to hone various facets of his game while acclimating to college life. But staying on the periphery, watching his teammates grind through the season, could be grating at times.
"The whole year it was tough. Redshirting is really hard," Fink said. "It’s really helpful because you get to work on stuff, but it’s hard in the sense that you won’t be able to compete for another year in college golf."
So when he returned to Oahu Country Club for the Manoa Cup, Fink stepped to the first tee of Monday’s qualifying round refreshed to be back in the fray but with some anxiety over how he’d perform after the competitive layoff.
His trepidation transformed into confidence with a 6-under-par 65 and he rode the momentum through the week to reach today’s championship match against defending Manoa Cup champion TJ Kua.
Fink earned a spot in the 36-hole final for the first time yesterday by rolling past Jonathan Ota in the quarterfinals and Bou-An Fujieki in the semifinals, winning both matches by 5-and-4 margins.
"I got back (from Oregon) Saturday and I got to play on my course and it was like my feel almost came up from the ground, just came into me in a sense," said Fink, a member of OCC. "It’s my first tournament in a while and I feel I’m playing well again.
"I was worrying about making the cut before (the qualifying) round. So to play like that … kind of gave me a lot of confidence knowing I’m still in shape for a tournament."
OCC’s 14th green became Fink’s finishing hole yesterday, saving him some strides in the tournament that requires players to hike the hilly Nuuanu layout.
Fink, son of KFVE general manager John Fink, grew up watching the Manoa Cup and reached the third round in 2008 before losing to Kua 2 and 1 in his last appearance in the tournament. Today he’ll attempt to become the second club member to win the title in the last three years, joining 2008 champion Alex Ching.
"The members give so much to me; to kind of represent the club is really an honor and I look forward to trying my best for the club," the ‘Iolani graduate said. "I’ve grown up wanting to be in this situation."
Fink never trailed over the 28 holes he played yesterday in advancing past Ota, the 2006 champion, and Fujieki.
While Fink could relax and regroup after finishing his quarterfinal match early, Fujieki, who recently graduated from Punahou, spent his morning engaged in a seesaw duel with Michael Fan.
Fujieki took a 1-up lead to the 18th tee, but Fan dropped a birdie putt to force extra holes. After returning to No. 1, Fujieki managed a par on the first playoff hole to earn a spot in the semifinal round for the first time.
Fink set the theme for the match on the first hole, following a booming drive with a solid approach to the green to set up a par. Fujieki bogeyed the hole and quickly found himself 4 down through six holes.
"The second round I felt like I was physically and emotionally drained from the whole week," said Fujieki, bound for Claremont McKenna College in the fall. "David played solid. I would have to play my A-game to have a chance."
Fujieki closed to within two when Fink double-bogeyed No. 8 and bogeyed the ninth.
But a birdie by Fink on No. 10 put him firmly in control again. He nearly chipped in for eagle on the par-5 13th hole – the ball lipping out of the cup. His tap-in birdie pushed the lead to 5 up and a par on No. 14 set up a showdown of left-handers in the final.
"It’ll be a really friendly match, really fun to play," Fink said. "So a lot of laughter, and a lot of good shots hopefully."