Monday, May 17, 2004

[ GOLF ]

Amanda Wilson, a junior at Waiakea High School, shot a final-round 73 yesterday to win the Jennie K. Wilson Invitational.

Waiakea’s Wilson
claims Jennie K.

Hilo's Amanda Wilson overcame a sore back and a shaky start to capture the coveted Jennie K. Wilson Invitational yesterday at the Mid-Pacific Country Club in Lanikai.

The 16-year-old Waiakea High School junior posted a final-round 73 for a 5-under total of 211, edging defending champion Stephanie Kono, 72-213, by two shots.

Wilson, who placed second in the Jennie K. two years ago, led all the way in this year's event, opening with a 6-under-par 66 on Friday that tied a tournament record set in 1983 by Lori (Castillo) Planos.

Yesterday, she set a record of her own, shattering the tournament low of 216 (also set by Planos in 1983) by five shots. Planos shot her 3-under-par 216 when the Mid-Pac course was a par-73 for women. It is now a par-72.

Kayla Morinaga, who had the day's best round, placed third at 71-220. Kamehameha's Mari Chun (78), Sacred Hearts' Ayaka Kaneko (77) and Waiakea Intermediate's Kimberly Kim (77) tied for fourth at 225. Veteran Bobbi Kokx, the 2000 Jennie K. champion, was another shot back at 76-226.

"I'm glad that I finally won," Wilson said afterward. "The last two years I came close. I always felt I was good enough."

Wilson was aided in her win by her caddie, Joe Phengsavath, a colorful local professional who helped keep her calm and loose. According to Phengsavath, Wilson developed a knot in her back after yesterday's second round and was still feeling some pain when she began the final 18. "She was pushing the ball on the opening holes, so I adjusted her alignment and had her aim a little left," he said.

Wilson began the final round with a three-shot lead on Kono, but saw that lead quickly evaporate when she bogeyed the first three holes. When Kono rolled in a 5-footer for birdie at the par-3 sixth, Wilson suddenly found herself one back.

"After those opening holes, I told Amanda, 'It's time to get off this bogey train. Just start making some pars and the birdies will come,'" Phengsavath said.

Amanda Wilson and her caddy, Joe Phengsavath, watched a putt go astray on the 18th green yesterday.

Sure enough, Wilson made three quick pars and then regained the lead with back-to-back birdies at the seventh and eighth holes. At nine, she missed a 10-footer for birdie but still led by a shot. At the 10th, Wilson dropped another birdie, pitching to 3 feet to get back to even par for the day.

"After that, I just concentrated on making pars," Wilson said. "Par is a good score and I knew it would be tough for Stephanie to catch me."

Kono, who is only an eighth-grader at Punahou School, had a chance to cut the lead to one at the 13th, but missed a 5-foot par putt. From there on in, the two golfers matched cards. Both birdied the par-5 16th and both bogeyed the par-4 17th with 3-putts.

"I know what it feels like to be chased," said Kono, who led wire-to-wire in last year's event. "Amanda got off to a bad start today, but she got it back together and held it together. It was hard to catch her."

Wilson recorded her victory on a soaked Mid-Pac course. Although the sun shone brightly yesterday, the rains from Friday and Saturday left a lot of standing water on the course. Golfers were allowed to clean and place their balls on the fairways and were entitled to relief from casual water.

Wilson, who is only 16, is the oldest Jennie K. champion in the last four years. Michelle Wie won this event in 2001 when she was 11. Kira-Ann Murashige, also of Hilo, won in 2002 at the age of 15, while Kono won last year's event at the age of 13.

In addition to being the 2004 Jennie K. winner, Wilson is the current Big Island Interscholastic Federation champion and placed third in last week's State High School Championships.

The sweet-swinging Hilo golfer said she would like to play on the LPGA Tour. She has already drawn the attention of some big-time college programs, including Arizona State and Florida.

This summer, Wilson plans to play in the Junior World in San Diego. She will also try to qualify for the U.S. Women's Open, the USGA Girls Amateur Championship and the Women's National Public Links Championship.


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