John Hearn and Shane Abe drained nearly 100 feet worth of putts on the final three holes just to get out of the first round of the Nike Golf 4-Ball Match Play Championship. They finished fast again yesterday to win it.
The Aloha Section PGA event started with 22 teams at Oahu Country Club. It was down to two yesterday afternoon, and four guys who know each other very well.
Hearn and Abe, both 43, met when Hearn started golfing at the Hawaii Kai Par-3 in 1982. Lance Taketa, a 1975 Hilo High graduate, was Kevin Hayashi’s golf coach when he was part of Waiakea’s first graduating class in 1980.
Now they work together at Hilo Muni. They have won the section’s Scotch 4-Ball title together three times on the Big Island, but never this event despite reaching three of the past four finals.
Combining for eight birdies yesterday morning, they never trailed in their 1-up semifinal win over Andrew Feldmann and Larry Stubblefield. The OCC head pro and the Hawaii Golf Hall of Famer have won this seven of the past eight years.
But Hayashi and Taketa never led against Hearn and Abe, who works for Feldmann at OCC. Every time the Big Island team surged, Hearn and Abe shot back in a 2-and-1 victory.
"We played about as good as we could," said Hayashi, who did win this event with Hilo Muni head pro Rodney Acia in 2001. "They were just better. … Every time we made a move, they shot us down."
Abe drained a 35-foot birdie putt on the fifth hole to put his team ahead. The putt deflected off Hearn’s ball marker and dropped into the heart of the hole.
Taketa’s par halved the match on the treacherous eighth, but Hearn put his team ahead again on the 10th when he almost sank a blind flop shot from far below the green.
Hayashi, closing on his eighth Aloha Section Player of the Year Award, sank a seven-footer for birdie to tie it again on the 11th. Taketa’s par put his team back up on the next hole, but Hayashi’s drive was just short of the green on the par-4 14th, and he nearly chipped in to square the match yet again.
Then Abe took over with birdies on the next three holes.
"He was really clutch," Hearn said. "That was it right there. Very solid. Very solid."
With Taketa and Hayashi looking at birdie putts inside five feet on the 15th, Abe drained his putt from the fringe that ultimately halved the hole. He was the only one to hit the green on the par-3 16th and somehow got a quick and curling 30-footer to drop.
"I guess that was my range today," said Abe, who captured the 80th Manoa Cup at OCC in 1988.
"All you could say was good putt," Hayashi said. "As soon as he hit it, it looked like it was going to go in."
It almost happened again on the next hole, but with a wedge. Abe’s chip curled to within two feet. Hayashi and Taketa, who both missed the green with their approach shots, gave him the birdie putt and the win.
"I know this meant a lot to him because he was fiddling and fumbling before the last match," Hearn said of his partner. "I know it meant a lot to be able to win in front of the members here."
Abe and Hearn beat 2008 finalists Damien Jamila and Jerry Mullen in the other semifinal, 3 and 2. They upset defending champions Matt Pakkala and Kevin Carll, 3 and 2, in the second round.
The winning team opened with a stunning victory on the 19th hole over Dave Eichelberger and Mark Chun on Tuesday. Down two with two to go, Hearn made a 35-footer on No. 17 and Abe a 25-footer on No. 18 to tie. Abe’s 30-footer on the first extra hole won it.
Hearn and Abe won $1,500 apiece for the victory.