HAWAII GROWN REPORT
Isles calling Ma to return
After five years at the University of Oregon, Matt Ma is ready to come home.
He misses the warm ocean waters and hot sand at White Plains beach out on Barbers Point near the old navy base. He misses Yama's Fish Market on Young Street, where he'd devour poke and lau lau -- with extra jalapenos on the side -- as often as he could. He misses his family and he misses his house.
"I pretty much just miss everything," Ma said with a laugh. "I mean, I don't really get homesick here just because I'm so busy and I got a lot of buddies. But it is different."
And soon it will be over.
The former Iolani standout will wrap up his Oregon golf career in the coming weeks and graduate in June with a degree in political science and a minor in business. He'll then immediately head back to Hawaii with an uncertain future.
"Obviously, growing up every little kid's dream is to play on Sunday and raise the trophy," said Ma, a four-time state all-star and runner-up at the 2002 state championships as a senior.
"But I'm not going to play professional right now. My game's not ready and my head's not where it needs to be.
"I'm going to go home and see if I can get a job with a company like Titleist or TaylorMade because I have a pretty good relationship with those reps at home. I think if I stick my nose in there and snoop around I can get a job."
There is another possibility out there that intrigues Ma.
"I want to coach at my high school, because I know they are looking for a coach right now," he said. "Everybody on my team teases me, but I really want to do it. When I get home I may just stop in and throw my name in."
Before then, Ma still might have some golf to play for the Ducks, who will hear on Monday if they'll be invited to the NCAA Regional tournament as an at-large team. Either way, it's been a strong senior season for Ma. He opened the year with his first victory at Oregon, when he won the Northwest Collegiate Classic on Oct. 3.
Then in the spring, Ma was a part of the Ducks' team win at the Thunderbird Invitational in Tempe, Ariz.
"Winning (the Thunderbird) was the biggest win I've been a part of," Ma said. "We took five solid players down and the five of us did it."
Overall, however, Ma summed up his golf career at Oregon as "inconsistent."
"But with bright spots," he added. "One bright spot was actually getting here. When I was in high school I knew I could play. I came up to the mainland and played in some AGA junior events.
"Being in Hawaii it's really, really hard to get noticed and get recruited and get recognition. You have to come up to the mainland and be successful."
Ma redshirted his first year in Eugene, then played in all but one tournament as a redshirt freshman in 2003-04.
"I felt really good about that, and it proved to me that I could compete at this level," Ma said. "But my redshirt sophomore year is the pride and joy of my whole career."
Ma opened that season with a second-place finish at the Northwest Collegiate Classic during the fall season. But he went into a funk that he didn't pull out of until the following spring. Once he finally did, a string of great golf followed.
"I kind of had something to prove and went out there and played out of my mind," Ma said.
"I went five straight events in the top 14. That was my best year by far."
Ma was drawn to Oregon after making a recruiting trip and meeting former head coach Steve Nosler. He liked Nosler's straightforward approach, the beauty of the Oregon campus and the excitement of a big-time college sports atmosphere.
He had also been a frequent visitor to the state while growing up. Not only had he played amateur tournaments in Oregon, but he often stayed with family members who live in the coastal town of Astoria, located in the northwest corner of the state.
So while the change in climate was tough to get used to, Ma wasn't taken by surprise.
"I wanted to come," Ma said. "I got what I asked for. I knew what I was getting into."
Plus, he added, there is a large Hawaii community at UO, including among the student-athletes.
"Once in a great while I'd barbecue with (former Oregon football center and 2002 Kamehameha Schools alum) Enoka Lucas," Ma said. "We'd go and have bonfires in the back of their house. We'd get it close to home.
"Up here ... as far as the student body goes, most of the Hawaii students are very close," Ma said. "They definitely find their niche."
Ma hopes to find his when he gets back to the islands.