CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Brandan Kop will go after his fifth Manoa Cup championship when qualifying for the tournament at the Oahu Country Club begins on Monday.
Can winning a Manoa Cup be so hard?
Four-time champion Brandan Kop says the tournament can be the hardest or easiest to win
THERE HAVE been 17 multiple winners in Manoa Cup history, and eight have won it three or more times.
But becoming the Manoa Cup champion is not as easy as it seems.
Or is it?
"It's the hardest to win but yet it's the easiest to win," said Brandan Kop, who will attempt to win his fifth title when the 98th annual Manoa Cup begins on Monday with an 18-hole qualifying round.
"It's the hardest to win because you can't have one bad round," he added.
"If you play stroke play, I mean three or four rounds, you can have one bad round but still make up for it and win it. This tournament, you have one player whose hot against you at the right time and you're finished.
"It's the easiest (to win) because sometimes you play the right person at the right time and you can win your match. So the average player can beat a good player given the right circumstances."
Kop, a four-time winner who captured his first championship in 1983, said it took him quite a few years before he finally broke into the winner's circle.
"It wasn't until I was 22 before I won it," he said.
A former two-time All-WAC golfer at the University of Hawaii, Kop took home the coveted title in 1986 but went 11 years before he was the champion again.
"The first time, you really don't know if you're going to win one at all, let alone twice," said Kop.
"That's when you realize how hard it is to win it."
Kop made it look simple a year later when he became one of the few back-to-back winners in the history of the tournament, joining Austin White, George H. Angus, Jimmy Ukauka, Charles Makaiwa, George Nahale Sr., Ken Miyaoka and the legendary Francis Ii Brown -- who won an unprecedented nine Manoa Cup titles -- on the elite list.
"I'm honored (to be included on the list)," Kop said.
Dick Sieradzki is on the list of names engraved on the perpetual champions trophy on display in the Clubhouse at Oahu Country Club, but unlike Kop, he is still searching for that elusive second title.
"When I did win I was 44 years old," said 1990 champion Sieradzki, "and I never thought I would win because of my age ... and I played kids that were half my age. But to realize you can beat these kids, that was really hard, because you think once you get over 40 you're not going to be able to compete with these 20-year-olds because they're pounding it by you 40, 50 yards."
SIERADZKI COULD have been talking about a number of young guns, such as Ryan Perez or Kellen-Floyd Asao.
But at the top of the list should be Travis Toyama.
Toyama burst upon the scene at Oahu Country Club in 2002 as a little-known 15-year-old and promptly put his name in the record books by becoming the youngest ever to win the championship.
"People know me now and they know me because of that," said Toyama, who went 33 holes before beating Damien Victorino of Kauai 5 and 3 in the 36-hole final.
"After that first win, I got more invites to other tournaments; and I'm talking mainland and national tournaments."
To prove he wasn't just a one-hit wonder, Toyama won the Manoa Cup last year after he used a sand wedge to sink his approach shot from 60 yards out on the 32rd hole for an eagle to put away Hilo's Jacob Low 5 and 4.
DOES TOYAMA EXPECT it to be easy again this year?
"The competition is really good in Hawaii and it's one of the premier tournaments in Hawaii for amateurs," Toyama said of the Manoa Cup. "But it's really wide open this year. Everybody's playing good. There's no one favorite.
"You've just got to play your own game."
Youth might be the only thing that separates Toyama from Kop, or even Sieradzki.
And that is certainly a huge advantage when walking the hilly OCC course for five days, including twice on Saturday and Sunday.
"This is one of the very few tournaments where physical stamina plays a big part," Kop said.
"I think maybe more than 50 percent now (because of the younger players entered).
"What happens is when you get tired you don't think well. You don't feel the shot. It makes a big difference.
"And if you look at the list (of winners), I think from 1999 the oldest was probably 21 years old. Before you had 30 or 40 years old (winning the title).
"My feeling is it's going to be someone 21 years or younger that has the best chance to win."