Yesterday’s wild final round of the 47th annual Oahu Country Club Men’s Invitational turned into an ‘Iolani reunion won by David Fink.
The Manoa Cup champion needed a 3-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to outlast 15-year-old Lorens Chan, who fired a tournament-low 6-under-par 65 in gusty conditions to chase down Fink.
Chan was six shots back going into the final round. When Fink lipped out a 5-foot par putt on the final hole of regulation, shooting even-par 71, they were tied at 3-under-par 210 for the tournament. No one else broke par.
Two years ago, Chan won the state high school championship in his freshman year at ‘Iolani. Fink was a senior and the two lifted the Red Raiders to the team title.
Fink heads back to Oregon State for his second year with a highly enhanced resume for his redshirt freshman season.
Back in June, he was almost flawless on his home course to capture the Manoa Cup, given to the state amateur match-play champion. This weekend he held off a pair of bleached blonds from the University of Hawaii team — Jared Sawada and David Saka — in the final threesome and then shook off one of Hawaii’s premier juniors in a playoff.
Chan, who has suffered through an erratic year he traces mostly to his driver, came out of nowhere to make a serious stab at defending his title. A year ago, he became the Invitational’s youngest champion at 14 and also set a record for margin of victory, winning by 13.
This time he brought the drama back into the final round, with six birdies and an eagle. It was so low even he didn’t know what he shot immediately, characterizing his round as "good enough for me" after so much 2010 frustration.
If it hadn’t been for the first hole, it would have been good enough to win. Chan blasted his drive on the 424-yard hole behind the tree closest to the green the first two days and suffered double bogeys each day.
Yesterday, he switched to a 3-wood off the tee and still made bogey. On the playoff, he hit his 3-wood in the fairway and stopped his approach 7 feet above the hole. Fink pushed his approach into the left bunker, but blasted out to 2 feet.
Chan’s putt to win rolled over the left edge.
"I hit a good putt," Chan said. "Maybe just a little misread."
Fink also thought he hit it in the right place. Given a second chance, he parred to play on and got his approach on the next playoff hole to stop just below the cup. Chan hit his a bit too hard and had a 5-footer just above the hole — a treacherous spot on OCC’s slick greens.
His birdie putt never had a chance. Fink, thinking of nothing but devoting this tournament to a friend’s grandmother recently stricken with cancer, hit his right in the heart.
"David left himself the best putt possible — an uphill draw putt," Chan said. "I knew I had to get anywhere short, but I had a funny lie against the grain and not playing with grain for two months … aargh. I misjudged it a little bit. Got to get back my touch."
Fink’s putt was pretty much the same one he lipped out 2 hours earlier. The miss inspired him to get it going on the next hole, sinking an 8-foot birdie.
"That hole I probably hit my best three shots of the day," Fink said.
He chipped in from 50 feet on the next hole, after backing off twice because of the gusts, to get some separation from Sawada and Saka. But Chan was tearing it up just ahead.
"I know Lorens well enough to know he can turn it on," Fink said. "He hasn’t been playing his best the last two days. I knew he still had a good round in him."
And Chan knew Fink wasn’t going anywhere.
"I played with David the first and second day," Chan said. "The first day he was struggling, had two OBs, and he just fought back, made a lot of birdies. The second day (Fink shot 66), he lit it up with his putting. It’s all mental. He’s a solid player."
Now Fink wants to take that back to Corvallis. "Honestly, I think playing here is harder for me than playing on the mainland," Fink said. "The wind, the grain, the speed of the greens gets quick and you can’t always control them here.
"My problem last year is I didn’t play any competitive golf before I went. I had surgery, so it really hurt me. I really think there are a lot of positives coming out of this summer. … I hit the right shots at the right times in both these wins and learned a lot about myself."