Moanalua sophomore Eimi Koga held her lead against 35-mph winds and the pursuit of older players yesterday to win the David S. Ishii Foundation/HHSAA Girls Golf Championship at Waikoloa Village.
Punahou captured its fifth consecutive team title.
Koga, who has won the Oahu Interscholastic Association title her first two years, birdied the first hole then weathered the final-day storm to shoot 5-over-par 77. Her 70 on the first day and pars on the final two holes were just enough to win by one shot.
Defending champion Cassy Isagawa, a Baldwin senior who played with Koga, finished bogey-bogey for a score of 76—148. Isagawa, headed to the University of Oregon, tied for second with ‘Iolani junior Marissa Chow (74).
When she hit it close and converted on the first hole, Koga reminded herself that "anything can happen, keep hold of myself." Anything did on a final day, where the wind and the gravity of the moment blew scores all over the Big Island.
"It was not windy our first three holes, but it picked up — a lot — on the fourth," said Koga, the 13-14 Junior World champion last summer. "It was really difficult. It felt like 100 mph. … My 3-wood wouldn’t reach 150 yards, I was frustrated. Then I’d hit an 8-iron 170 yards."
Koga said she wasn’t nervous until the 18th tee, where she knew she was tied with Isagawa. While the senior ran into trouble, the sophomore hit the par-5 green in regulation and nearly made her 20-foot birdie putt to calm her nerves and clinch the title.
She attributed her final-day focus to a commitment she made to teammate Jefferson "Turtle" Yee, who will play in the boys championship next week. Yee lost his father to cancer last week and the Moanalua girls wore purple ribbons to support him.
Alina Ching (77—149) rallied on the back nine to finish fourth and lead Punahou.
Ching, one of six Punahou seniors this year, played the back in 1 over after a rugged start. Her score, along with those of sophomore Kacie Komoto (79) and seniors Cyd Okino (79) and Michelle Condry (83), combined for a team total of 235 in the final round and 458 for the tournament. That was nine better than Waiakea and 10 ahead of Baldwin.
All five Punahou players that qualified, including junior Maggie Min, finished in the top 16.
"I told them earlier that I really wanted to relish this state tournament," Punahou coach Ed Kageyama said. "It was a really good group of girls — real good people that happen to be good golfers. I don’t think that comes around very often. This tournament, I wanted them to enjoy the moment. This group won’t come by again anytime soon. They really enjoy each other’s company."
University High senior Alice Kim, who will play for Gonzaga in the fall, was the only player to shoot par yesterday. She finished fifth.