Donny Hopoi and Jared Flores went from boys to men with a brilliant back nine yesterday.
The high school freshmen one-putted the final five greens to win the Hawaii State Golf Association Four-Ball Championship by a shot over defending champs Ryan Kuroiwa and Jared Sawada at Ted Makalena Golf Course.
It was the first open victory for the 14-year-olds, who start their high school careers this semester. Hopoi is at Kamehameha, while Flores joins Kuroiwa at Moanalua. A year from now, Kuroiwa will be playing with Sawada at the University of Hawaii.
"I feel super old," Sawada, a UH junior, said with a shrug.
He was not alone. Junior golfers dominated the top 10. Hopoi and Flores closed with a 5-under-par 66 — one better than Sawada and Kuroiwa — to finish at 11-under 131. Among the prodigies in waiting who came close were Kaimuki Middle School eighth-grader Jino Sohn, who made a late run with partner Skye Inakoshi, a Mid-Pacific sophomore, to take third at 69–133.
Moanalua sophomore Eimi Koga and 12-year-old partner Kyosuke Kevin Hara, also planning to play for Na Menehune, tied the winners for low-round honors with a 66 and shared sixth. That gave Koga the unofficial women’s title. Allisen Corpuz, 12, and Kacie Komoto, 15, who shot 68 Saturday, dropped to 16th with a 74 yesterday. Both those teens have already won major state women’s championships.
Hopoi and Flores also have an early start on adult titles now. They went into the final round a shot behind the junior golf teams of Sohn/Inakoshi and Brett Komoto/John Oda. Both opened with 64s Saturday in a format that counts the best score of the team on each hole. Inakoshi had Saturday’s best round, shooting 65 on his own ball.
By the time the teams made the turn, the defending champs were in first at 10 under. Hopoi and Flores — playing in the same foursome — were a shot back, with each getting two birdies on the front.
Hopoi’s 10-foot birdie putt tied it up on the 12th hole. Kuroiwa’s birdie from 8 feet on the next hole gave his team the lead again, but he and Sawada bogeyed the next two. Hopoi’s 10-foot par putt on the 14th gave his team a share of first again and his 5-footer for par on the 15th put it ahead for good.
Flores dropped a 20-footer for par on the next hole. "It was a severe left-to-right (break)," he said. "My dad told me it was about 3 1/2 cups up. I went maybe 4, 4 1/2 . I just let it trickle in."
On the next hole, he drained an 8-footer for birdie for what would be the winning margin. Both parred the final hole to hold on. Hopoi called it "the longest three holes of my life."
"We kind of synchronized," Hopoi said. "When I played bad, my partner helped me out and when he played bad my game just went up. We helped each other out."
Sawada nearly coaxed his short approach in on the final hole for eagle to tie, then tapped in for birdie to grab second.
"They made a lot of pressure putts," Kuroiwa said of the winners. "Just played really well."
Just behind, Sohn birdied the 14th and Inakoshi the 15th to get to 10 under. Inakoshi’s length-of-the-green birdie putt to tie for first on the 18th caught the lip and kept going, leading to a 3-putt bogey and third.