RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
David Ishii chipped onto the ninth green during yesterday's final round at Mid-Pacific Country Club.
Ishii’s putter reemerges
He captures the Mid-Pacific Open with a final-round 5-under 68
Even a 50-year-old championship-level pro golfer can benefit from a lesson.
Just ask David Ishii, who showed yesterday why he's headed for the Aloha Section PGA's Hawaii Golf Hall of Fame.
The legendary local pro from Kauai said he had been "putting poorly the past five, six years."
So the 1990 Hawaiian Open winner did something about it last Tuesday, traveling to Arizona for a lesson from short-game guru Stan Utley.
It was a good investment, as Ishii rode stellar putting -- including a 45-footer from off the green on No. 18 -- to a victory yesterday at the Mid-Pacific Open.
Ishii started the final round in fifth place, but his 5-under 68 for a total of 2-under 286 gave him a three-stroke win over runner-up Kevin Hayashi, who had led from the first round. Ishii earned $12,500 for the victory, the first in several years for the Japan tour pro from Kauai.
"I told (Utley) to just take a look, see if you have any ideas," Ishii said. "He said I wasn't transferring energy to the head (of the putter)."
Utley told Ishii to focus on not moving his shoulders, but letting his arms do the work.
"He also teaches you to arc your putting swing," Ishii said. "It feels kind of funny."
And he said it didn't work very well the first three rounds, as Ishii shot a combined 3 over.
Good thing he didn't give up on the experiment yesterday. On a course where keeping the ball on the green is a victory in itself, Ishii made five birdie putts of varying length, including the tournament-clincher on 18.
Tough final-day pin placements accentuated the treacherous Mid-Pac greens.
"You just try to hit it on the green in a place where it doesn't do a funny thing," said Ishii, who played a one-bogey final round. "On this course it's all about trying to position yourself to not make mistakes."
He added that he was just trying to leave himself a short par putt on 18.
"If I missed, it would probably go 5 feet past the hole," said Ishii, who won the tournament in 1986 and hadn't played in it since 1990.
Afterward, Ishii lamented a scorekeeping error he made on Saturday that knocked Leland Lindsay out of the tournament. He accidentally wrote a number in a wrong space on Lindsay's card.
"He had to take a 38 (for one hole). I feel really bad about that, especially since we first met each other in junior golf," Ishii said. "What can you say to him after something like that?"
Hayashi might feel as bad as Lindsay today. This was his second consecutive runner-up finish at Mid-Pac, one of the few local events he has not won.
"It plays on my mind every year," he said. "I just didn't have it today. I felt a little uneasy when I was hitting balls at the range. I wasn't hitting them solid, so I ended up fighting my swing. I was tentative, punching the ball instead of swinging through."
Hayashi scrambled to par the first five holes, and none of his three playing partners -- Casey Nakama, Kenichiro Kato and Chad Saladin -- who all started the day ahead of Ishii made a strong move to take the lead away. No one in the lead group broke par on a hole until Kato birdied No. 12.
But Ishii steadily chipped away, with birdies on Nos. 1 and 9. He drew even to par and Hayashi with a birdie on No. 14, and took the lead when Hayashi bogeyed his second par 5 on the back nine, No. 16.
Then Ishii won it going away with birdies on 17 and 18.
Ishii said he plans to play a few events in Japan this year, as well as the senior U.S. and British opens. He hesitated when asked about attempting to qualify for the U.S. Open.
"On those young-boy courses you need length and power," Ishii said.
Saladin was third yesterday at 2-over 290, and Nick Mason and Nakama tied for fourth at 293.
Brandan Kop won the championship flight with 296. Kaimuki sophomore Chan Kim, 16, was second among the amateurs at 299.