CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Cyd Okino was all smiles after scrambling to make par on the 18th hole yesterday during U.S. Women's Open qualifying at Turtle Bay. The Punahou sophomore qualified with a 137.
Wie, Okino, Kim earn Open invites
Cyd the kid earns spot in U.S. Open
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Hawaii has three golfers playing in the U.S. Women's Open later this month in Minnesota after Michelle Wie qualified with a 36-hole total of 137 yesterday in Maryland and Punahou high school sophomore Cyd Okino managed to do the same with a 140 at Turtle Bay.
Former Big Island resident Kimberly Kim will join the Punahou products at the Interlachen Country Club in Edina, Minn. Kim has a two-year exemption for winning the U.S. Women's Amateur in 2006.
Wie shot a 70 over her first 18 holes at the Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md. She then fired a 67 at the Manor Country Club a few miles down the road to finish one shot behind Kelli Kuehne's 136, but good enough to snag one of the 35 spots at the U.S. Open sectionals held across the country.
"I think I did pretty well. It feels good to be playing good again," said Wie, who has struggled with her game for much of the last year. "There were a lot of shots that I left out there today with the putting and a couple of errant tee shots in the middle, but other than that I'm pretty pleased with my round and I'm really happy to be playing at the U.S. Open."
So is Okino, who beat Punahou teammate Anna Jang and Mexico's Margarita Ramos in this three-person sectional. Okino managed a 3-over 75 in the morning round to take a one-shot lead over Jang (76) and a three-stroke advantage over Ramos (78).
Ramos matched her 78 in the afternoon to be the first alternate with a 156, some 14 shots behind Okino after she had the first bogey-free round of her career with a 5-under 67 for a 36-hole total of 2-under 142. Jang blew up in the afternoon round to shoot an 81 for a 157. She will be a senior in the fall for Punahou. Okino will be a sophomore.
"I'm so excited, I don't know what to say," Okino gushed after giving her father a long hug beside the 18th green. Both were crying over the accomplishment. "I can't believe I'm in the U.S. Women's Open."
As for Wie, she feels vindicated.
"When you are struggling week after week, it takes a toll on your confidence," said Wie. "Nobody really gave up on me. My managers, David (Leadbetter, her coach), my parents, my trainer, everyone, they never gave up on me. They are always telling me you are going to get through it and you are going to get better."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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Cyd Okino's father gave his daughter a hug that would have made a Grizzly bear proud.
Shaking her from side to side, he lifted her off the ground moments after Cyd's par at the closing hole of the Palmer Course assured her a spot in the U.S. Women's Open at the ripe old age of 14.
Barely a 10th-grader, Okino played beyond her years, then shared the accomplishment with a proud papa who cried longer and harder than she did in the late afternoon light bathing the Turtle Bay Resort. There were maybe a dozen people there -- mostly family and friends -- to witness Okino's closing 67, the best round of this Punahou School sophomore's young career.
Of course, dad wasn't around to see most of it. Seems Cyrus Okino is an excitable boy, especially when it comes to his daughter's golf game. Gently banned from the course by close friend Casey Nakama -- who serves as Cyd's caddie because of dad's nervous nature -- Cyrus received bits and pieces of what was going on as he paced impatiently at the Turtle Bay clubhouse for the better part of 10 hours.
"I quit drinking," Cyrus Okino told anyone who would listen after yesterday's small ceremony crowned Okino queen of island golf.
In this three-woman sectional, Okino opened with a 1-over 73 that left her one shot clear of Punahou School teammate Anna Jang and three removed from 18-year-old Margarita Ramos, who will play for the University of Arizona in the fall.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Cyd Okino pulled her tee shot on the 17th hole but recovered to birdie after putting her second shot four feet from the cup.
"All I drink now is Coke," Cyd Okino continued unabated, a bit hopped up even an hour after his daughter locked up the nomination by a comfortable 14 shots over first-alternate Ramos. Of course, it didn't start out that way. A half-hour before she was to take the stage, father and daughter had a minor skirmish about when she should practice chipping and when she should putt.
Dad wanted one thing. Nakama suggested the other. Daughter got caught in the middle before the biggest day of her golf life and even thought about it long and hard at the opening tee. The tiff didn't matter much as Okino remained steady and true in the blustery morning conditions. She managed only one birdie over the first 18 holes, a statistic she quickly remedied in the calmer conditions of the afternoon.
After sinking four consecutive par putts, Okino finally managed a birdie, albeit from an amazing 30 feet at the par-4 fifth.
"That was unexpected," Okino said in measured tones. "I was just trying to get it close, but somehow it just dropped."
It seemed to shake, rattle and roll the competition as Okino birdied the par-5 ninth to punctuate the moment with a whopping nine-shot advantage at the turn. Ramos made a little noise by birdieing three of four early in the back nine, but Okino responded with birdies at Nos. 14 and 15 to bury the competition.
"This was my first bogey-free round and my lowest round ever," Okino said, saving her best for the perfect moment. "On the back, it was just dropping. It was so funny. I don't know. I can't explain it. I've never played this good before."
By winning yesterday's U.S. Women's Open sectional, she now has a two-year exemption at all USGA events, giving her an even busier summer schedule as she prepares for the U.S. Women's Amateur, the Open and the U.S. Amateur Public Links.
That realization brought tears to her eyes once more. Her thoughts at the moment? "I have no idea," Okino said, wiping away the tears. "I am just so happy. So now to know that I'm finally going is good. It feels like a really good year for me so far. Now I'm going to play in all of the USGA tournaments. I don't have to worry about qualifying. I can just go."
Nakama is going as well to the Open that will be June 26-29. The local pro -- who doesn't get out as much for the island tournaments as he nears 50 -- won't waste this opportunity. He wants to get Okino ready for the national stage.
"We've been working on her short game to make sure we get rid of the bogeys, get rid of the bogeys, get rid of the bogeys," Nakama said in rapid-fire fashion. "So making birdies was just a matter of time. It's kind of working out as planned. I'm trying to get her in a mode of taking off to a higher level now. We're definitely going to try to compete up there and not just make the cut."