CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Jonathan Ota, left, shook hands with Geoff Weinstein on the 14th hole after wrapping up his 6-and-4 win to reach the quarterfinals.
Four former Manoa Cup champions make it to the match play quarterfinals
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Four past Manoa Cup champions advanced to the quarterfinals of the match play bracket yesterday, while another may have bid farewell to the venerable tournament.
Defending champion Kurt Nino returned to the quarterfinals by eliminating Kellen-Floyd Asao 3 and 1 in their first meeting since Asao topped Nino in the 2003 final. While Nino continues his pursuit of a second straight title, yesterday's match may have been the last in the event for Asao, who is considering turning pro at the end of the year.
"This was the one tournament I never wanted to miss," said Asao, who has played in the Manoa Cup since graduating from high school in 2001.
Nino rode a hot putter to a 5-up lead at the turn and closed out the match on the 17th hole. He was to face Wade Nakamura, a 3 and 2 winner over Bradley Yosaitis, in a quarterfinal match this morning. Jonathan Ota, the 2006 champion, was paired with Michael Park in the other upper-bracket match.
The lower bracket features a match between second-seeded Alex Ching and two-time champion Travis Toyama. Four-time winner Brandan Kop faces T.J. Kua, who will play for the University of Hawaii next season, in the other pairing.
The quarterfinals start at 7 a.m. at Oahu Country Club with the winners meeting in the semifinals starting at 11:30 a.m. The 36-hole championship is tomorrow starting at 7 a.m.
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CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Kurt Nino teed off at the ninth hole during his victory over Kellen-Floyd Asao yesterday.
Kurt Nino decided to break out a new putter for his return to the Manoa Cup this week.
After three rounds, it was hard to argue with the decision.
Armed with the belly putter, Nino stormed through Oahu Country Club's front nine in his match with Kellen-Floyd Asao yesterday, needing just 11 putts to take a 5-up lead at the turn in the rematch of the 2003 Manoa Cup final. After weathering a couple of shaky drives on the back side, the defending champion emerged with a 3-and-1 win and a spot in today's quarterfinals.
"It's helped my game a lot," Nino said of the switch. "I'm not saying I was a bad putter before, I just wasn't too satisfied on my long putts. With the belly putter it helps me keep the putter down the line more.
"It seems like I have more confidence with it on the longer putts, and it's all about confidence in putting."
A sure touch with the putter has been at a premium on OCC's slick greens this week as the field was trimmed to eight with four former champions among those remaining.
Nino was to face Wade Nakamura this morning with the winner taking on either 2006 champion Jonathan Ota or Michael Park in the semifinals later today.
Second-seed and qualifying round medalist Alex Ching faces two-time champion Travis Toyama for the right to meet Brandan Kop or T.J. Kua in the other semifinal. The state amateur match play title will be decided in the 36-hole championship tomorrow.
"Now it's going to be tiring ... and I'm already tired," Kop, a four-time champion, joked after eliminating Bou-An Fujieki 3 and 1. "Now the physical aspect kicks in, too."
Nino enters today's play having won his last nine Manoa Cup matches and avenged one of his few losses in the event by beating Asao yesterday.
When they last met, Asao scored an 8-and-7 win over the 15-year-old Nino in the tournament final. This time Nino took command early with four birdies over the first seven holes and held on after Asao cut his lead to 2 up on the 14th.
"He's always been good at match play," said Asao, "but his putting was unreal today and he was hitting the ball straight as usual."
Nakamura earned a shot at dethroning Nino with a 3-and-2 win over Bradley Yosaitis. Ota defeated Jeff Weinstein 6 and 4 and Park joined him in the quarterfinals by defeating Michael Fan 3 and 2.
Ching didn't play past the 14th hole in his first three matches of the week and rolled to a 9-and-8 victory over Jared Sawada. Toyama advanced with a 2-and-1 win over Alex Chu.
Kop, who won his fourth Manoa Cup title 10 years ago, was his steady self in outlasting Fujieki, a junior at Punahou. Had it been a stroke-play round, Fujieki would have been 1 under par. But even that wasn't enough against Kop, who carded five birdies against one bogey.
"It's tough (to come back) because he's not going to make bogeys," Fujieki said. "And if he does miss the green, he'll get up and down."
Fujieki did record an unusual birdie on No. 14 when his uphill putt rolled about a foot past the hole, but slid back down the slope and reversed into the cup.
"It's the first time I've seen that happen," Fujieki said.
Like Kop, Kua took a steady approach to win his match with Iolani's David Fink 2 and 1. Once he took the lead, the Kamehameha graduate stayed conservative to hold off Fink.
"I just tried to make sure I played consistent and gave myself chances and it worked," said Kua, who will play for the University of Hawaii next season.