Wednesday, November 20, 2002


Bowling helped bring state champion Samantha Masuda and her father, Dan, closer together before he died last week.

Father and
daughter’s last bond

Samantha Masuda worked
through the pain of her dad's
death to win the state high
school bowling tournament

By Jason Kaneshiro

On the surface, bowling is an individual sport. But Samantha Masuda knows better.

The Kapolei junior won the girls championship at last week's AT&T Wireless/Hawaii High School Athletic Association State Bowling Championships on Kauai, and she's convinced she had some help.

Masuda's father, Dan, died Nov. 12, succumbing to cancer after a year-long battle.

The next evening, Samantha boarded a plane for Lihue. Two days later, she returned home with a state championship medal.

"I don't know what everybody else believes in, but I believe that he was there," said Samantha, 15. "There were some shots, I don't know how, but they seemed to work out. There were some bad shots and I got a lucky break."

Masuda won the championship at Lihue Lanes by averaging a remarkable 198 over nine tournament games.

She was sixth after the first day of competition with 1,100 pins and a high game of 211. She stayed in contention in Friday's final session by rolling a 236 in her first game and 227 in the second.

"I didn't think about winning first place until about the eighth game," she said. "And then it kind of sunk in that maybe I have a chance."

Masuda closed with a 224 to finish with 1,787, 33 pins ahead of defending state champion Jodi-Ann Gum of Pearl City.

"Everybody was crying for me, because they knew about Dad and they knew that I had won," Masuda said. "But for me, I couldn't believe it until they called my name for the medal."

Masuda worked hard to contain her emotions throughout the two-day tournament, stifling the temptation to let her tears flow as she accepted the hugs of well-wishers.

She finally let the floodgates open when she returned to her hotel room after the tournament to call her mother, Julie.

"She called me Thursday night, and told me 'Mom, I'm in sixth,' and I said, 'That's great,'" Julie Masuda recalled. "So when she called me and she's in tears on Friday, I figured she fell out of the top 15 completely. And then she tells me, 'I did it. ... I won.' Then we both started bawling.

"She told me, 'Dad was with me. I could feel him. Dad was with me.'"

Samantha's victory is even more striking considering she has been bowling competitively for about three years. She bowled a bit as a child, but broke her arm in the second grade and didn't pick up a ball until the summer following her eighth-grade year.

Dan Masuda, already a popular member of the local bowling community, was thrilled when Samantha expressed an interest in the sport and enrolled her in a junior program at the Barbers Point bowling center.

Samantha was part of Kapolei's first freshman class in 2000 and when the school listed "bowling coach" among the positions it needed to fill, Dan volunteered.

Julie Masuda said bowling instantly became a bridge between father and daughter.

"Prior to that they didn't communicate well at all. They didn't have really anything in common to communicate about," she said.

"Sam likes all sports, so once the bowling started they started watching football together and golf and baseball and basketball. All the things you might expect a father and son to do, they started doing. And it all started with the bowling."

Dan coached the Hurricanes for two seasons and watched with pride as Samantha finished fourth at the OIA championships as a freshman and came in 13th at last year's state championship at Leeward Bowl.

Shortly after the 2001 season, Dan felt some discomfort and thought he had pulled a muscle. But a visit to the doctor and subsequent tests showed the source of his pain was prostate cancer.

He underwent radiation treatments to no avail, and soon the cancer rendered him paralyzed from the waist down.

"For a while he was real steady, he'd have a bad week and then he'd have a good week," Samantha said. "Then it just started getting more and more dramatic."

Dan's pain steadily increased, and the family admitted him to St. Francis Hospice Care.

Julie and Samantha visited him a final time last Monday. By the time Samantha left school the next day, Dan Masuda had died.

Samantha said skipping the state tournament was not an option.

"He knew things were getting bad, so he told me if anything happened he really wanted me to go, because he didn't want to hold me back," she said.

"Besides my dad, I know our team worked so hard to get to states and I wouldn't want to just leave them and ruin their chance."

She said being around her friends on the Kapolei team helped her deal with her loss, as did the expressions of sympathy from other players and coaches.

But once she picked up the ball, everything but the lane and the pins disappeared.

"Nothing else was in my mind when I was actually up there," she said. "If anything else was in my mind it wouldn't have worked. You just block out everything else around you, all the cheering, and you just have to make shots."

It was a lesson Dan had drilled into her during their trips to the lanes.

"That's something he always tried to get through to her, the mental game," Julie said. "He kept telling her about the mental game."

Her performance Friday not only won her the individual title, but also helped Kapolei finish third in the team standings behind Pearl City and Hawaii Baptist.

"The last day I had that feeling like you're just on it, it's kind of unexplainable," she said.

"Everybody was supporting everybody. We were really up and we were cheering loud. So it was enough to get my mind off things just for the time being and just made it a lot of fun."

Julie Masuda said bowling not only gave Samantha a distraction from the pain of losing her father, but also provided priceless memories.

"It helped to keep them close, so she doesn't feel like she missed a whole lot," Julie said. "She knows she's going to miss things in the future because he's not here. But at least she knows the time that she's had with him these past few years ... it's been time well spent."

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