CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Junior World Hawaii qualifier winners included, front row, Allison Corpuz, Kristeena Locke, Donny Hopoi and Shon Katahira; and, back row, Kekie Kawano, Rudy Cabalar, Justin Keiley, T.J. Kua, Cyd Okino and Eimi Koga. CLICK FOR LARGE
Kua, Kawano on top of Worlds
The two junior golfers win their divisions at the Hawaii qualifier
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T.J. Kua and Kelcie Kawano both finished second at the state high school golf championships last month.
Yesterday, they got a turn at the top of the leaderboard in winning their divisions at the Hawaii qualifier for the Callaway Junior World Golf Championship.
Kua and Kawano were among 44 boys and girls in five age groups who qualified for the Junior Worlds in San Diego, scheduled for July 16-20.
The two-day qualifying tournament concluded yesterday at the Turtle Bay Resort.
Kua held off Alex Ching to win the boys 15-17 division with a total of 2-under-par 142, leading a group of six qualfiers in the division.
Kawano's two-day total of 150 on Turtle Bay's Palmer Course earned her medalist honors in the girls 15-17 division.
Britney Yada was second at 153.
Other girls division winners were Cyd Okino (13-14), Eimi Koga (11-12), Allisen Corpuz ( 9-10) and Kristeena Locke ( 7-8). Boys winners included Justin Keiley (13-14), Rudy Cabalar (11-12), Donny Hopoi (9-10) and Shon Katahira (7-8).
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T.J. Kua has already played in the Callaway Junior World Golf Championship several times. But when he returns to San Diego next month for his last appearance in the tournament, the incoming Kamehameha senior will have a little added incentive.
"This is the one with the most scouts, so it's a good tournament to make after your junior year," Kua said. "There's a lot of college coaches, but you just have to play how you normally play."
Kua earned an opportunity to play before the coaches attending the Junior World Championships as one of 44 survivors of a two-day qualifying tournament, which concluded yesterday at Turtle Bay Resort. Some 186 players in five age divisions entered the qualifier for the Junior Worlds, to be played at several courses in the San Diego area July 16-20.
Kua was the medalist in the boys 15-17 division, carding an even-par 72 yesterday to finish with a total of 142 and edge Alex Ching for first place by two strokes.
Maui senior Kelcie Kawano won the girls 15-17 division at 75-75--150. Cyd Okino, an incoming freshman at Punahou, was the only player to shoot two under-par rounds in winning the girls 13-14 division at 71-70--141. Other girls division winners were Eimi Koga (11-12), Allisen Corpuz ( 9-10) and Kristeena Locke ( 7-8). Boys winners included Justin Keiley (13-14), Rudy Cabalar (11-12), Donny Hopoi (9-10) and Shon Katahira (7-8).
The trip to San Diego next month is part of a busy summer for several junior golfers, who spend much of the time between the end of the school year and the start of classes traveling to various tournaments.
Okino is one of the players in yesterday's tournament who will flock to Kauai in advance of this weekend's USGA Junior Amateur qualifier at Wailua Golf Course in hopes of adding another stop to their schedules and a bunch of frequent-flier miles to their accounts.
"I usually travel all around the mainland, maybe four (tournaments)," said Okino, who first qualified for Junior Worlds when she was 7.
While Okino will be making her fifth trip to San Diego, Kawano qualified for her second Junior World and was pleasantly surprised in taking medalist honors yesterday.
"I wanted to qualify, just to qualify would have been good," Kawano said. "But things happen, you get lucky."
She said playing in the Junior World is part golf tournament and part cultural exchange.
"To play with people from halfway around the world, to know they like the same things, it's culture shock but it's really nice," Kawano said. "You're there to golf, but it's for life skills, too."
Like Kawano, Kua, was the runner up at the HHSAA golf championship last month. He put himself in position to qualify with a 70 on Monday and recovered from a 3-over front nine yesterday with three birdies on the back to secure both his place in the Junior World field and the top spot in the division.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Kyle Suppa, Sian Rogers and Keanu Akina played around while waiting for the awards ceremony at the Junior World Championships at Turtle Bay yesterday. CLICK FOR LARGE
"It means a whole lot to just qualify and then to win it is a bonus," he said.
Ching spent his spring with the Punahou tennis team, winning the state doubles championship with Erik Shoji, but kept his golf game in shape by playing the Oahu Country Club course in his down time. He had five birdies in his first 13 holes yesterday before trouble along the bunker-lined 17th fairway led to a double bogey and a final round total of 2-under 70.
Though he's enjoyed success on the tennis court, Ching is eyeing a future playing college golf and, like Kua, is hoping to get some attention heading into his senior year.
"There's definitely a lot of college coaches at junior worlds so it'll be good to show your game," Ching said.
Both Kua and Ching will have siblings accompany them to San Diego. Kua's brother, Trevor, qualified for the first time in the boys 7-8 division.
Ching's sister, Alina, was the fourth qualifier in the girls 13-14 division.
Kelli and Cory Oride also both qualified.
"It's fun having (Trevor) around, he beats me at putting every day," Kua said. "He's a pretty solid player at 8. He'll probably be better than me when he's my age."
"It's like a big family reunion up there," Alex Ching said.