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Mueller dominates Pearl Open field


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POSTED: Monday, February 09, 2009

As the late John Updike wrote in his book “;Golf Dreams,”; for a golfer there is “;always a bubbling undercurrent of hope, of a tomorrow when the skies would be utterly blue and the swing equally pure.”;

; Yesterday was that “;tomorrow”; for Jesse Mueller at the 31st Pearl Open. It was one of those days where the ball continued to find the hole on the tricky Pearl Country Club course, whether it was on a 45-yard putt on the 212-yard No. 3 for birdie, or on fairway shots for two eagle 2s within four holes, one from 111 yards out on the 340-yard No. 8, the other from about 80 yards on the 431-yard No. 11.

“;Things were just going in,”; said Mueller, who closed with a 7-under 65 to finish 19 under. His 197 tied the tournament record set by Katsumasa Miyamoto in 1998, and earned the 25-year-old pro from Arizona $12,000.

The eight-stroke margin of victory is believed to be the largest in the event's history. Runner-up Makoto Endo, in Mueller's foursome, marveled at the winner's control, from tee shot to putting.

“;He was hitting the ball so well,”; Endo, the first-round leader, said through an interpreter. “;I've never seen two eagles in a round. It was his day and I feel so lucky to have played in this tournament.”;

It was quite a week for Endo as well, who said he returns to Japan with “;one good news, one bad news”; for his clubmaker and sponsor Maruman. The good news is he closed with a 69, taking advantage of John Ellis' bogey 6 on No. 17 to finish alone in second (205). The bad news is his clubs were stolen before the tournament; he played six rounds with borrowed Titlelists, promising to return them after a cleaning.

It was also quite a week for two Hawaii high schoolers in the field. Punahou junior Bradley Shigezawa repeated as low amateur, finishing with a 68—210, and Moanalua senior Tadd Fujikawa learned he had two sponsor exemptions to play in the Honda Classic in Florida and Puerto Rico Open over the next few weeks.

Fujikawa, who won this event as an amateur in 2007, tied for 22nd at 212. He finished with a 71 despite a double-bogey at 18.

“;Bad tee shot, bad second shot (into the trees), bad third shot, bad fourth shot and a 2-putt,”; said Fujikawa, who'll play in this week's SBS Open Pro-Am at Turtle Bay before heading to Georgia for a week with his coaches at Sea Island.

For Shigezawa, it's back to school and today's tryout for the Punahou golf team. It should be automatic, except for one catch: The Buffanblu coach is Casey Nakama, whom Shigezawa beat by a stroke yesterday.

“;That was my second goal, to beat him,”; Shigezawa said.

The 50-year-old Nakama, who survived all the “;good shot for an old man”; calls from the gallery, finished at 71—211. In his foursome was 'Iolani freshman Lorens Chan, who led Shigezawa by two strokes heading into the final round but finished four strokes back at 214.

The highlight of Chan's 74 yesterday may have been his long birdie putt at No. 10, which got him back on track after a 40 on the front nine. As if on cue, the sounds of fireworks could be heard from the Pro Bowl pregame show.