Jared Sawada secured a spot in January’s Sony Open in Hawaii because his putting was so good Monday even the golf gods couldn’t hurt him.
Sawada won out over 11 other amateurs in the Sony Open qualifier. He and Cory Oride, another former Rainbow, were the only golfers to break par at windy Waialae Country Club.
Moanalua’s John Oda — who won the amateur exemption two years ago — and Shawn Lu tied for third at 72 with Punahou senior PJ Samiere.
Oride’s fifth birdie came from 15 feet on the 18th, giving him a 1-under 71.
Sawada had to squeeze in a 14-footer for double bogey on the same hole to shoot 70, after going OB off the tee.
Apparently the golf gods were trying to get even for him making pretty much every putt he looked at on the back nine.
Sawada shook them off by making the final putt, too, to get his first shot at the PGA Tour. He took just 24 putts all day — 10 on the back nine and none at the 11th.
|MORE PHOTOS: Sony Open Amateur qualifying round at Waialae Country Club, Nov. 25|
"It was sick," Sawada grinned. "I knocked it in the water on No. 11 with my tee shot. I had like 200 yards to the hole, hit a 3-iron and came up really short. I was just trying to get the chip close and it went in. Kind of cool. That one felt so good. It kept the momentum going."
Sawada’s 2013 has been kind of cool. He won the Francis Brown Four Ball (with Evan Kawai), graduated from the University of Hawaii and claimed the 105th Manoa Cup. In the summer, he captured the Army and OCC invitationals.
A year ago, he lost a playoff with Richard Hattori — the guy he beat in the Manoa Cup final — to get into the Sony. Sawada was even par at the turn Monday, birdieing both par 5s. Then his putter got hot.
Sawada birdied the par-5 10th, salvaged par on the next hole and knocked in a 10-footer on the 12th to get to 2 under. He found himself in deep rough on the 15th fairway when his "fade" began to turn into a slice. From 186 yards out, he chased the ball through a gap and onto the green, then dropped a birdie bomb from 18 feet.
He hit a remarkable flop shot to 4 feet for par on the next hole, then got to 4 under — three ahead of everybody — when he drained a 12-footer on the 17th.
But his tee shot on the 18th went very high and far right. Much farther than a year ago, when his tee shot on the second playoff hole against Hattori stopped a foot out of bounds.
"I was really frustrated," Sawada recalled. "I thought ‘Are you kidding me?’ I hit a 3-wood so I could be in the middle and I went OB again. I was kind of stressed out. I had to relax myself."
He put the ball in the fairway, then watched his fourth shot fade right into the trees. He pitched out and pitched up to the green. On this day, that was as close as he needed to be.
Oride could only watch as Sawada, in the final group, sank the final putt.
"I can’t believe I get to play in the Sony Open," Sawada said.