Monday, March 14, 2005


UH’s Kodama wins
Amateur Stroke Play

University of Hawaii senior Matt Kodama successfully defended his State Amateur Stroke Play title yesterday at the Pearl Country Club, but the 23-year-old golfer had to overcome a faulty putter and a mid-round charge by Japan's Toru Nakajima to do it.

Kodama saw a seven-shot lead trimmed to a single stroke before rallying with two late birdies to post a final round 72 -- 289, one over par for the tournament and three shots better than Nakajima, who closed with a 71 to finish second at 292.

Japan's Yosuke Tsukada (72) and 2003 Manoa Cup champion Kellen-Floyd Asao (73) tied for third at 295.

"I didn't putt very well the entire tournament," said Kodama, who will graduate in May from UH. "The first two days I squandered a lot of shots not getting up and down. On Saturday, I shot 67 and had 32 putts -- which is a lot. Today I had a couple of three putts. Fortunately, my ball striking was good all week."

So was his play on the par-5s. For the weekend, the UH golfer played the long holes 7-under. His take included a pair of eagles on Saturday and three birdies yesterday.

Kodama began the final round with a four-shot advantage over Nakajima, the No. 1 player for Waseda University in Japan, and quickly extended that lead to seven with birdies at the par-5 first and fifth, and the short par-4 seventh.

But at eight he stumbled badly. "I got on the wrong side of the hole and 3-putted from 5 feet for a double bogey," he said. "Then Toru rolled in a 40- or 50-footer at nine for birdie and suddenly I had given back three shots."

At the par-5 12th, Nakajima rolled in a 35-footer for eagle to pick up two more shots. When Kodama 3-putted the par-3 13th, his lead was only one.

"At that point he had gained six shots on me," said Kodama. "I was getting concerned because he was rolling in those long putts."

That's when Kodama answered back with a long putt of his own. At the par-4 14th, he drained a 20-footer for birdie to pull back ahead by two and give himself some breathing space. "That was a big putt," he said. "It was sure nice to see something go in the hole."

A more important birdie followed at the 17th, a short downhill, downwind par-5 that always seems to be a decisive hole at Pearl Country Club. For a second time, Nakajima had closed to within a stroke, making par at the 16th to Kodama's bogey.

But at 17, the 20-year-old golfer from Japan drove left into trouble and then struck a pine tree trying to punch a low shot through an opening to the green. He wound up three-putting for bogey.

Kodama, meanwhile, powered a drive down the right center of the fairway and followed it with a beautifully struck 8-iron to within 20 feet. When he two-putted for birdie, he walked to the 18th tee with a secure three-shot lead.

Kodama, who makes his home in Las Vegas, plans to turn pro after graduating from UH in May. He said he will play one more event as an amateur, the upcoming Mid-Pac Open, and then join the Butch Harmon mini-tour. "It's a new tour, just starting up," he said. "All the events are held in the Las Vegas area, so I get to stay home and play there."

Other top finishers yesterday included Brandan Kop, who placed fifth at 72--297. Two golfers tied for sixth: Jacob Low, 72--298, and 14-year-old Tadd Fujikawa, 74-298.

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