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12-year-old leads women’s state event

Mariel Galdiano, terrifically talented and 12 as of last month, blew into first place at the Hawaii State Women’s Stroke Play Championship yesterday.

She shot a 3-under-par 69 over the breezy 6,000-yard Mid-Pacific Country Club layout. Galdiano goes into today’s final round of the second women’s major of the year four shots ahead.

For the second straight day, she birdied the first two holes. This time she didn’t back off, blasting drives long and straight all day and needing just 28 putts. Her only bogey came when she over-cooked her approach to the par-5 12th. Her other birdies came from just inside 20 feet on the 14th and inside two feet on the 16th.

The 69 was a stroke off her career best, which came while she was winning the Hawaii State Junior Golf Association Tournament of Champions at a much shorter Wailea Emerald.

Galdiano, who starts seventh grade at Maryknoll soon, is at 1-under 143. James Madison University junior Nicole Sakamoto (76–147) is next. The first-round leader took a step back after an opening-round 71.

"I guess I was kind of nervous," said Sakamoto, who was James Madison’s MVP last season after winning two collegiate tournaments. "I get a little nervous in the lead. I couldn’t hit the ball, or putt."

She had six more putts than Galdiano and four more bogeys. Sakamoto, a Kalani High graduate who was fifth in this tournament last year and tied for second in 2007 with Hayley Young, is in third place at 75–151. Young, a Boise State sophomore, shared a cart with Galdiano yesterday and had to drive because the leader wasn’t old enough.

In the past four years, Sakamoto also has three top-five finishes in the first women’s major of the year — the Jennie K. Wilson Invitational at Mid-Pacific. She had six top-10 finishes in college last fall, including those two wins. She has yet to win at home.

To break through, Sakamoto will have to go through Galdiano, who was practically perfect yesterday. The St. Elizabeth Elementary graduate has been dominant in her age group in major HSJGA events, yet might not be the best 12-year-old in the state.

Allisen Corpuz, a Punahou seventh-grader, will try to win her fourth U.S. Kids national title next week on the mainland. She is the reigning Hawaii State Women’s Match Play champion.

Both are just a head taller than their drivers and fearless on the golf course.

Galdiano acknowledged she missed a "few opportunities" for birdie yesterday. This is her first state stroke play start. She tied for fifth with Sakamoto in her first Jennie K. in May. Corpuz has finished second in that major the last two years.

Is it time for a 12-year-old to master Mid-Pacific?

"I want to feel confident in my swing (today)," Galdiano said. "I don’t want to guess how to hit it or how it should feel. I want to know the path of my swing. It’s mostly concentration."


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