JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Chan Kim closed the Hawaii State Amateur Stroke Play Championship with a 70 yesterday.
Kim has his own Aloha tour
Parting wasn't such sweet sorrow for Chan Kim at the final day of the 2007 Hawaii State Amateur Stroke Play Championship. It was just sweet.
The Kaimuki junior, who is moving to Arizona by the end of the month, shot a 2-under-par 70 yesterday for a tournament total of 9-under 279 at Pearl Country Club. He held off defending champion Toru Nakajima by three strokes, although the margin was five entering the final hole.
It was likely Kim's last local golf event before moving with his family to attend Hamilton High School in Chandler, Ariz., where the golf is highly competitive. The school owns its own golf course and its students can practice year-round.
He exits Hawaii with a bang.
"It feels great," said Kim, the 2006 state high school individual champion. "It just gives me more confidence going into Arizona. As soon as I get there I'm going to be playing in an event, and the way I'm swinging I feel real confident. They have some of the strongest teams in Arizona, so I'm just excited. I just hope I can make the golf team since they're so competitive there."
Kim and Nakajima, as well as Kapaa's Casey Watabu, shot a round-best 70. Watabu, who qualified for the Masters by winning the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship in July, finished in third place at 2-under 286. They were the only three finishers under par for the tournament.
Kim held the lead since the second day, and fortified his three-stroke lead by shooting 3 under on the front nine yesterday. He chipped in for birdie on 11, then sank another on 17 and chipped in again for birdie on 18 to enter the turn on fire, distancing himself from Nakajima by another stroke.
The 6-foot-2 youth carried the momentum through by blasting his tee and approach shots on the par-5 No. 1 hole, setting himself up for an easy birdie yet again. On No. 2, he chipped his second shot to within 4 feet of the hole to set up his fourth straight birdie.
"He shoots long and accurate," said Nakajima, a fifth-year college student from Chiba, through an interpreter. "(I) tried to catch up really hard, (but) start and finish, (Kim) had a good tempo, rhythm."
Kim described his run as "just awesome."
His streak of four birdies marked his last time he would shoot a hole under par, but it would be enough to keep Nakajima at bay. Kim bogeyed three of the final seven holes, including the last.
"Unfortunately I couldn't keep going (with that), but it still feels great, coming in with an under-par round," Kim said.
It won't be the very last time Hawaii golf fans can watch Kim play. He plans to be back in future years for the Pearl Open, and possibly other events, he said.
Meanwhile, Watabu -- who graduated from the University of Nevada in December -- essentially used the tournament as a tune-up for his trip to Augusta National.
"I haven't been playing tournaments, and I figured that I need (to) extend that competitive mode," said the 23-year-old. "So I thought this was a good tournament for me to start (being) mentally competitive for (the Masters)."
He kicked himself for starting off poorly yesterday, going 3 over after three holes. But Watabu rebounded on the final nine by shooting 4 under over that span. He leaves today to get in 3 weeks of practice before the biggest event of his career. If things go well, he plans to turn pro sometime next year.
"I feel better that I finished well," he said.
The lone female in the tournament, Sacred Hearts' Ayaka Kaneko, fell out of contention after a strong start over the first two days. She shot a 77 in each of the final two rounds to finish in 11th place.