Repeat performance by Merkle in Jennie K.
Kristina Merkle accomplished something yesterday that only one other person has done in the past 43 years.
The Moanalua sophomore won her second consecutive Jennie K. Wilson Invitational by a ridiculous 13 strokes after shooting a 1-over-par 73 in the final round of the event yesterday at Mid-Pacific Country Club.
Merkle became the fifth person since the tournament began in 1950 to win consecutive titles, joining Jackie Yates (1953-54), Ramona McGuire (1958-59), Joan Damon (1961-64) and Anna Umemura (1997-98) in the exclusive club.
"It definitely gets harder to win each year with all of the good junior golfers coming up," Merkle said. "Everything went pretty smooth and I just tried to make things as easy as I could for myself."
Merkle entered the final round with a one-shot lead over Jaclyn Hilea. The two were teammates on last year's Moanalua golf team when Hilea was a senior and Merkle was a freshman. Nobody was within six shots of either player when the round started, but any chance of a showdown between the two ended at the par-4 No. 7 when Hilea put two balls out of bounds off the tee and finished with a quintuple bogey.
"I started bad, I did bad in the middle and I ended bad," Hilea said. "It was tough for me because I just don't have the mental game right now, and (the seventh hole) is what threw me overboard."
Hilea was 8 over par after nine holes, while Merkle birdied the sixth hole to get back to even for the tournament. She held a nine-shot lead heading into the final nine holes. Her only slip from that point on was a bogey on the par-4 15th, but she rebounded with three straight pars to finish with a 218, 13 shots better than second-place finisher Nicole Sakamoto.
"I could actually breathe after the front nine," Merkle said. "My driver wasn't giving me any problems and I just tried to play conservative, which I was able to do all three days."
Hilea, meanwhile, limped to a seventh-place finish after shooting 89.
"I couldn't really watch it because I didn't want that to happen to her," Merkle said of Hilea's struggles.
Merkle did not compete in this year's high school state championships, instead opting to play in a tournament in Atlanta. Her next event will be a Publinx qualifier at the beginning of June at Ala Wai golf course.
Past champion Bev Kim shot an 81 for the third straight day to win the A-flight championship by three shots over Keiki-Dawn Izumi.