PEARL COUNTRY CLUB
Japan’s Maruyama gets spot on the wall
The thunderstorms never materialized as forecast, but it did rain birdies yesterday at Pearl Country Club.
Japan's Tomohiro Maruyama sank five birdies over his last 10 holes, including a string of three consecutive in the middle of the back nine, to claim the title of the 28th Hawaii Pearl Open and $12,000.
Maruyama, who started the day at 10 under, finished 15 under after a 67--201, two strokes better than playing partners Andy Barnes and Don Berry.
PCC Director of Golf David Ishii, shooting his "best score in five-six years," tied for fourth (70--206) with Joseph Summerhays (68--206).
Maruyama, whose best finish here was second in 1999, was pleased to finally have his picture join the gallery of tournament champions. He had played this event an estimated 10 times and continued to return "because I wanted to get my picture on the board with all of my friends," he said through an interpreter. "On the back nine, my legs were shaking on every birdie putt. No, not because it was Pearl. Every tournament is important.
"The last time I won was in 1995 and I played excellent golf then, was comfortable with my swing. I felt like that again today."
Maruyama said the key hole was No. 9, where he picked up two strokes on Barnes, a former University of Arizona golfer. Maruyama birdied the 345-yard par 4, while Barnes three-putted, cutting Barnes' lead to one at the turn, just as rain clouds began to form.
The pro from Japan tied it with a birdie on No. 11 but, as it began to drizzle, fell back a stroke when three-putting for bogey at No. 13.
"I three-putted because it started to rain," he said. "Maybe it made me focus more. As a result, it was for the better."
Barnes was unprepared for both the rain -- "left the umbrella in the car," he said -- and for Maruyama's hot putter.
"Even starting on nine, it seemed like every putt he had had a chance to go in," Barnes said. "You just hope that the hole will go for you, too. I don't feel like I played bad. He made putts when he had to.
"I didn't feel like I lost, as much as I got beat by a better putter."
Barnes' best memory from his inaugural appearance here won't be how he played steady enough to stay within a stroke heading into 18. It came on 14 as Barnes was about to putt: a military fly-over that was part of the Pro Bowl pregame festivities at nearby Aloha Stadium.
"That was cool," Barnes said.
Barnes parred 14, but Maruyama answered with the first of three straight birdies. Still, there were only two shots separating the final threesome heading to the final tee: Maruyama at 197, Barnes at 198, Berry at 199.
Barnes and Berry both hit their tee shots, but Maruyama had his interrupted when Greg Meyer, in the preceding group, had to return to the 18th tee twice. Meyer had hit the wrong ball and, when he couldn't find his ball, went back for a second tee shot; that one went into the trees and couldn't be found, forcing a third tee shot.
Meyer, the first-round co-leader, ended up with a birdie on the hole but, with six penalty shots, took a nine to finish at 77--213 and tied for 23rd.
The delay relaxed Maruyama on his tee shot, he said, and it followed through to the green. Despite thinking he had hit it too hard, his putt stayed true for par.
Berry ended up with a par and a tie for second when Barnes bogeyed.
Japan's Yuki Ito, an 18-year-old high school student, held on to repeat as low amateur (75-211), a stroke better than Hawaii's Tadd Fujikawa (72--212).