Stenftenagel, Nino eye Manoa Cup
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Two former Manoa Cup champions bowed out yesterday morning and the last of the tournament's early-teen set exited in the afternoon, leaving two college players to duel for the coveted championship today.
Kurt Nino and Edward Stenftenagel, who will be juniors at San Francisco and Southern Cal in the fall, survived yesterday's quarterfinal and semifinal rounds in the 99th annual tournament and meet this morning for the state amateur match-play championship.
The 36-hole final is scheduled to start at 7 a.m., at the Oahu Country Club.
Nino eliminated four-time champion Brandan Kop 2 and 1 in yesterday's morning round. The Damien graduate then ended 13-year-old Lorens Chan's bid to become the youngest champion in Manoa Cup history with a 2-up win in the semifinals.
Chan had knocked off defending champion Jonathan Ota 3 and 1 in the quarterfinals and was all-square going into No. 16 against Nino.
But Nino reclaimed the lead with a par while Chan bogeyed and his touch around the greens helped him hold on for the next two holes.
On the other side of the bracket yesterday, Stenftenagel needed 19-holes to get past Iolani junior David Fink in the morning and then rallied to eliminate St. Anthony junior Taeksoo Kim 3 and 2 in the afternoon semifinals.
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Kurt Nino and Edward Stenftenagel have a couple of traits in common.
Both will be juniors for their college golf teams this fall, and both have relied on their touch on and around Oahu Country Club's greens this week to give themselves a shot at winning their first Manoa Cup championship.
Nino and Stenftenagel survived Monday's qualifier and five matches -- including two yesterday -- to reach today's 36-hole final to determine the state amateur match-play champion.
"Any time you play 36 holes on a hilly golf course like this, it's going to take something out of you," Stenftenagel said after eliminating Maui's Taeksoo Kim 3 and 2 in a semifinal match. "I'm just going to relax, get a good dinner, get to bed early and be ready for tomorrow."
Today's match will be Nino's second appearance in the Manoa Cup final and the Damien grad has become a regular in the tournament's late rounds in recent years. He had played in the semifinals twice prior to this year's tournament and lost to Kellen-Floyd Asao for the 2003 championship.
"It's getting me hungrier and hungrier," Nino said of his previous brushes with the title. "People say I have bad luck. I think it's just that I'm playing really good players. But hopefully this year's the year."
To enjoy the traditional plunge into the club's pool reserved for the Manoa Cup champ, Nino will have to get past Stenftenagel, whose hot putting helped him breeze through the first three rounds before rallying to beat David Fink in 19 holes in the quarterfinals and holding off Kim.
Nino and Iolani eighth-grader Lorens Chan ensured that a first-time champion would be crowned today when they knocked out two previous winners in yesterday morning's quarterfinals. Nino beat four-time champion Brandan Kop 2 and 1, while Chan eliminated defending champ Jonathan Ota 3 and 1.
Nino then ended Chan's bid to become the youngest Manoa Cup champion in the tournament's history, going all 18 holes to edge the 13-year-old 2 up.
"It helped today having tournament experience over here," Nino said. "Lorens had me scared for little while. He was hitting every fairway and every green, but it so happened that my putting has been hot all week."
Nino had hernia surgery last July and played just four tournaments for San Francisco this season. He had trouble keeping his drives in the fairway on the back nine against Chan, but held on thanks to a clutch short game.
After Chan evened the match with birdies on Nos. 11 and 15, he pushed his first shot on the par-3 16th to the right. Nino left his shot on the left fringe, chipped to inside 5 feet and reclaimed the lead with a par putt.
He appeared to open the door for Chan on 17 when a pitch from the rough caught a gust of wind and rolled off the back of the green. But he stuck his chip coming back within 2 feet and kept the lead when Chan's birdie putt came up inches short.
"(The injury) still bothers me during the swing so late in the round it was hurting me walking up the hills," Nino said. "I can stretch it out tonight and hopefully I can swim in the pool tomorrow.
Stenftenagel, who is transferring from Redlands to USC, was two down going into No. 13 against Fink when he yanked his tee shot past the trees lining the left side of the fairway. He then pulled out a do-or-die shot to stay in contention.
"I took a 3-wood from 210 and hit probably a 50-yard slice over all the trees onto the green," he said. "It was basically, 'This is the shot of the tournament,' because if it doesn't slice it's going straight into the jungle."
After saving a half on the hole, he eventually took the lead but had to go an extra hole to advance. He then stuck his second shot on No. 1 within 2 feet of the cup to effectively end the match.
In the semifinals, Stenftenagel was one down against Kim at the turn and appeared to be in trouble when his drive on No. 10 clipped a tree. But he drilled a 9-iron from 126 yards and made the 7-foot birdie putt to win the hole and rode the momentum to the win.
For Chan (13) and Kim (16), the experience was the primary payoff in their first appearances in the match-play portion of the event. Chan didn't make it out of qualifying at age 11 two years ago and he may still have a couple of more shots at becoming the Manoa Cup's youngest winner.
"I tried not to think about it," Chan said of the record set in 2002 by then-15-year-old Travis Toyama. "It's all right. There's next year."