Ten years after 11-year-old Michelle Wie introduced herself to Hawaii golf — and then the world — by winning the Jennie K. Wilson Invitational, Eri Joma came from Fukuoka, Japan, to deny Hawaii teen Allisen Corpuz that same breakthrough.
Joma seized the lead of the 61st annual Jennie K. all to herself on the seventh hole yesterday and doggedly hung on at Mid-Pacific Country Club to snag one of the most coveted golf titles in paradise. She shot 4-over-par 76 in the final round for a 54-hole score of 8-over 224. Joma beat the 13-year-old Corpuz (77) by one shot and Hee Sue Condry (79) by two.
Corpuz, just finishing seventh grade at Punahou, has finished second the past three years. She pointed to a three-putt at the 12th and bogeys at No. 15 all three days as what derailed her latest attempt at winning this event before she enters high school.
Condry is about to graduate from Punahou and embark on a collegiate career at the University of San Francisco. She took a one-stroke advantage into the last round. It lasted as long as it took to triple-bogey No. 2. From there, she tenaciously chased Corpuz and Joma, ultimately to no avail.
"You don’t ever want to do that (triple-bogey), but it definitely puts it back into perspective," Condry said. "It’s just a game. We’re lucky to be playing, lucky to be playing here at a beautiful golf course. You realize it’s not that bad. There were 16 holes more to play."
Condry caught the leader with a 10-foot birdie putt on the 12th hole. It only lasted until Joma converted a 5-footer moments later.
The trio played on, trying to avoid disaster on Mid-Pac’s slick greens. Condry three-putted the 13th and one-putted the next three holes for par. One last three-putt, on the 17th, put her two back going into 18. She was tied with Corpuz, who had birdied the 16th.
Joma went into the last hole without a clue where she stood.
"I didn’t play as well as I could or should," she said through an interpreter. "I didn’t know how far ahead or behind I was. I was only concentrating on my game."
Her drive stopped under the trees in the right rough. She punched the ball just short of the green, chipped to the back and safely lagged her par putt to gimme range for bogey, as if she knew all along that would be enough. When Corpuz and Condry both missed birdie attempts, barely, from the fringe, she owned the first women’s major of the year in Hawaii.
Joma’s putting was what won it for her. With greens so quick that tap-ins were rare treats, she avoided three-putts and made two memorable birdie putts she felt were the difference.
The first came on the final hole Saturday, when she buried a 7-footer that caught Corpuz, kept Condry close and gave her a good feeling about the final round.
The second came early yesterday. Joma bogeyed No. 1, then birdiedthe next from just inside 20 feet "to cover up for what happened on the first hole."
Joma, 17, and Akane Saeki won trips to the Jennie K. by finishing 1-2 at the All-Japan Amateur. They go to the same high school in Fukuoka and flew home last night to play in the Kyushu Amateur that starts a few hours after they land.
Saeki (76—229) snuck by Hawaii high school champ Eimi Koga (78—231) to take fourth place. Both are 15.