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Wilson chases momentum, leaders

    Dean Wilson, above, and UH freshman David Saka shot 1-over-par 71 and were tied for 85th going into today's second round.
    UH freshman David Saka shot 1-over-par 71.

Dean Wilson knew he let a few opportunities slide by yesterday in his opening round of the PGA Tour season.

Unlike last year, Wilson also knows he’ll have a lot more chances coming up no matter how he fares over the remainder of the Sony Open in Hawaii.

Wilson’s appearance at Waialae Country Club 12 months ago opened a season of uncertainty after he lost his tour card in 2009. The Castle graduate took care of that by making nine cuts with four top-25 finishes in 18 starts last year.

So after completing a round of 1-over-par 71 in yesterday’s opening round, Wilson knows he has some work to do today to make the 60-player cut for tomorrow’s scheduled 36-hole finale. But he does have a bit more ease of mind this time around.

"Last year I had no idea how many tournaments I was going to get in," Wilson said. "Now at least I can play and get some momentum, and I know I’m going to be in next week or the following week.

"It’s a lot more comforting feeling knowing I have a job."

Wilson and University of Hawaii freshman David Saka — half of the local contingent entered in this year’s tournament — both enter today’s second round tied for 85th place and needing to make a significant move to make the cut.

Saka topped a field of the state’s top amateurs in the Governor’s Cup qualifier last month. He teed off on the back nine and was 2 over after eight holes. But he played his final 10 holes at 1 under, sparked by a birdie on the par-5 18th after sticking his third shot about 5 feet from the cup from 130 yards away.

"That helped me because I bogeyed three holes on the front nine so I thought it was going to be a long day, but I kept it together," said Saka, who will carry an opening-round 71 to his 8:40 tee time this morning.

Hilo’s Kevin Hayashi scuffled to a 5-over 75 before being inducted into the Hawaii Golf Hall of Fame last night. Dave Eichelberger, who won the Aloha Section PGA Professional Championship to earn a spot at age 67, shot a 76.

Wilson avoided the qualifying process by earning more than $832,000 last season and opened his season on a relatively breezeless morning.

Wilson made the turn at 2 over and sharpened his accuracy on the back nine to hit all seven fairways — thereby avoiding a rough thickened by the recent rains — and seven of nine greens in regulation.

"I hit the ball OK, but not good enough," Wilson said of his first nine holes. "I kept missing fairways by just a little bit, and then when you’re in the rough, it makes it so much harder to get the second shots closer. So I had my work cut out on the front."

Wilson got a bit of momentum going by hitting his approach on the par-4 second hole (his 11th of the round) inside of 10 feet and dropping the putt for his second birdie of the day. His next came on No. 8, when he snaked in a 24-footer to get back to 1 over heading to the par 5 ninth.

But a chance to get back to even par slipped away when his putt from 6 feet away broke in front of the hole, and he settled for a finishing par.

"Wish I could have got that birdie on the last hole, would have made everything better," Wilson said.

Saka admitted to some nerves before starting his first PGA Tour event and struggled early, but was solid from tee to green over a steady back nine.

On No. 3, he placed his approach inside of 6 feet and rolled in a birdie putt. He then gave himself six tap-in pars to close the round and give himself some confidence entering today’s play.

"I was hitting the ball good," Saka said. "If I didn’t hit the ball good, I don’t know if I would have gotten out of here alive."

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