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Hopoi and Flores earn 4-ball repeat

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Donny Hopoi and Jared Flores opened title defense of their Hawaii State Golf Association Four-Ball Championship by firing a 9-under-par 62 Saturday.

After Seungjae Maeng and John Oda passed them Sunday, thanks to a scorching 8-under 29 on the front nine at Ted Makalena Golf Course, Flores gave his team a shot at a sequel by burying a 15-foot birdie putt on the last hole of regulation.

A few minutes later, Hopoi clinched a repeat when he chipped in for birdie on the first playoff hole.

The high school sophomores — Flores goes to Moanalua and Hopoi to Kamehameha — shot 66 in the final round. It was just enough to catch Maeng and Oda, who are Flores’ Menehune teammates. They finished off a 61 for a two-day total of 14-under 128.

The tournament format counts the best score of the twosome on each hole.

Maeng, 17, is headed to University of the Pacific to play golf and study business marketing in the fall. He was the oldest in the playoff by two years.

The affable playoff foursome often practices together at Pearl Country Club. When Flores and Hopoi found out their buddies were 8 under at the turn Sunday — thanks to four birdies and two Oda eagles — they did not bat a 15-year-old eyelash.

“It wasn’t surprising,” Hopoi said. “Johnny and Seungjae are both really good players. I expected it. I knew it was coming.”

Flores knew it Saturday night.

“We expected them to go lights out from the beginning,” he said. “They are so good.”

The feeling is mutual. When Maeng and Oda found out Hopoi and Flores needed birdie on the 18th, they didn’t bother to watch. As soon as Flores hit his approach on the green, Oda headed in and he and Maeng put their clubs on their back and waited on the first tee for the playoff.

“I knew he’d make it,” Oda said.

Hopoi was not so sure. “I looked at that putt,” he recalled, “and thought, ‘That’s kind of a hard putt. I’m glad he’s the one putting, not me.’”

Flores was focused and absolutely unintimidated.

“My putting hadn’t been that spectacular on the back,” he admitted. “But on that putt I just felt like a must-make putt and it was either rise up to the occasion or not.”

On the playoff hole, all four golfers hit their approach shots short.

Maeng chipped first and nearly nicked the pin, leaving himself four feet for par. Oda hit his chip six feet short and Flores left his within three feet.

Hopoi chipped the ball softly, let it release and it rolled into the center of the stick and dropped straight down for the win.

“I’d seen three shots already,” Hopoi shrugged. “I’m sure pretty much anybody could have done it. It was a pretty simple chip. I was confident on that hole. It felt like a normal day. We always practice together.”

Oda also lost in a playoff, to Korean pro Jun Woo Park, three weeks ago at the Hawaii Pearl Open. His breakout performance came last year when he reached the final of the Manoa Cup. Maeng won Mayor’s Cup last year. Flores and Hopoi won this. Now they have won it again.

“We can play good together, I guess,” Flores said. “We have good chemistry. When one of us is not so great the other makes up for it.”

Oda agreed: “They love this course. They’re just two good guys who get along well together.”

Lyle Kawamata and Alan Arakawa won A Flight at 73—142. There were co-champs in B Flight, with Dennis Onaga and Donn Suzuki (72), and Allan Kuaana and Fred Denault (70) both finishing at 140.


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