Kono only Hawaii winner at Publinx
It falls upon Stephanie Kono to bear the Hawaii banner at the Women's U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship.
While four other Hawaii golfers fell in the first round of match play yesterday, Kono, a UCLA-bound Punahou graduate, marched on to today's round of 32 in Erin, Wis., with a dominant 5 and 3 victory over Laura Luethke of Fresno, Calif.
Kimberly Kim (Hilo), Kelly Nakashima (Wailuku), Mari Chun (Pearl City) and Kristina Merkle (Honolulu) all lost their first-round matches.
"No pressure," said Kono with a laugh.
The eighth-seeded Kono, competing in the event for the fifth year, plays 25th-seeded Ani Gulugian of Irvine, Calif. Although she's familiar with many of her opponents from playing through various amateur events, she doesn't know Luethke or Gulugian.
Her win wasn't quite as dramatic as her upset of Tiffany Lua last year in the first round, 3 and 1 - the first time a top-seeded player was eliminated on the first day of match play. Conditions were calm yesterday, and she won three of the final four holes of the match to pull away.
"Now I'm kind of getting the hang of match play, I guess," said Kono, who advanced to the quarterfinals last year in her best finish. She distinctly remembers her struggles in her first two years at the Publinx, where she failed to get out of the first round. "It's just so unpredictable, you just can't tell, so winning your first match is always good."
Kono notched a birdie on No. 12 to go 3 up and scored an eagle on the 505-yard, par-5 14th to take a 4-up lead. She was victorious when she birdied the 343-yard, par-4 No. 15, and Luethke conceded the hole and the match.
Merkle fell to Jennifer Song of Korea, 1-up, Chun lost to Kayla Mortellaro of Phoenix, 3 and 2, Kim dropped her match to Brianna Do of Lakewood, Calif., 3 and 2, and Nakashima couldn't get by Ha-Na Jang of Korea, 2 and 1.