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Monday, April 18, 2005



MID-PACIFIC OPEN


art
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
John Lynch watched his tee shot on the seventh hole yesterday on his way to winning the Mid-Pacific Open.


Luck rescues Lynch

The golf pro catches a break on
the 18th hole to hang on and
win the Mid-Pacific Open

John Lynch did his best to add some drama to the finish of yesterday's Mid-Pacific Open in Lanikai.

The 29-year-old pro from the Kukio Golf & Beach Club on the Big Island came close to squandering a six-shot lead, but got his lone break of the day when his chip shot at the 18th crashed into the pin and stopped inches from the cup, allowing him to tap in for par and escape with a win.

Lynch's lucky chip was good for a 78--288 finish, even par for the tournament.

He edged Hilo's Kevin Hayashi, Kauai's Dan Nishimoto and PGA Champions Tour veteran Dave Eichelberger by a single shot. Eichelberger (71), Hayashi (71) and Nishimoto (73) all finished at 1-over 289.

"I got lucky," Lynch said of his chip at 18. "I had a 54-degree wedge in my hand, then changed to a 48-degree, then a 9-iron. Thank God it hit the pin because I would have had a 10-footer coming back.

"I almost lost six shots today and that's kind of disappointing. But I hung on and got a win."

For Lynch, the Aloha Section PGA's 2004 player of the year, the victory was worth $8,500 and was his biggest win in major local championships.

After touring the Mid-Pacific Country Club course in 68 on Saturday, Lynch began the final round with a five-shot lead and then stretched it to six when he birdied the short par-4 third. But at the par-4 seventh, where he drove into the trees and three-putted for a double-bogey, his round began to unravel.

Another bogey followed at the long par-4 8th, and then another at the par-5 12th, where he three-putted for a second time.

"I didn't play that bad," he said. "It was just tough conditions. Some of the pin placements were ridiculous, and they don't need to do that. When the wind is up and the greens are extremely fast, this course is tough enough."

At 15, Lynch made his second double bogey of the day, pushing his second shot to the right and down an embankment. At that point, his hold on the tournament looked tenuous.

At the short, par-4 17th, he three-putted a third time, running his 35-footer for birdie well past the hole.

"I hit a good putt, but it just picked up speed and took off," he said.

In the group ahead, Lynch's closest pursuers were closing the gap.

Eichelberger and Nishimoto both birdied the 16th and 17th to pull within a shot, but that's as close as they would come.

Hayashi had the best chance of catching Lynch, but he stumbled badly, bogeying the easy par-5 16th and the 17th. At 17, Hayashi had almost exactly the same putt as Lynch -- and watched his ball roll off the green.

Lynch, however, was unaware of Hayashi's difficulties, and when he reached the 18th tee, he didn't know he still had a one-shot lead.

"Actually, in the back of my mind, I thought I had already lost the tournament," he said.

Thanks to his lucky chip, he didn't.



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