Merkle, Ota capture OIA golf titles


POSTED: Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Coming into the week, Kristina Merkle wasn't feeling so good.

Throbbing pain in her left shoulder. A night of nausea brought on by ... she's still not sure what. It just wasn't an ideal way to enter the Oahu Interscholastic Association girls golf championships, especially as the defending champion.

Merkle, like a champion, found a way to win. The Moanalua senior shot a second-round, 4-over-par 76 yesterday at Makaha Golf Resort to rally past teammate Tiffany Oda for her second OIA crown in as many seasons. Merkle finished with a two-round score of 153, two strokes ahead of Mililani's Kristen Sawada. Merkle trailed Oda by two strokes after the opening round.

Sawada was the hottest player in the second round, carding a 73 thanks to steady play and an occasional wow shot, including one from the base of a fence.

Maryssa Shigesato of Mililani was third (157), followed by Sara Koizumi of Pearl City (160) and Oda (162).

Tyler Ota of Moanalua posted a 71 to finish with a two-round 144 for the boys individual title. Campbell's Rudy Cabalar (147) and Mililani's Jonah Fonacier (148) followed.

Moanalua also won the OIA boys team title and Aiea took the top girls team honors.

Merkle knew she'd need an extra something this week. After struggling in the first round Monday, she stayed on the course and went back to work.

“;The problem was my driver. I didn't hit any straight. I was swinging too fast and wasn't turning my hands over,”; said Merkle, who corrected her swing after an hour of reps.

Then came the second round and a string of three bogeys to start out.

“;I was kind of freaking out, but I told myself there's still plenty of holes,”; she said. “;I wanted to defend my title, but I was thinking too much. I just had to play golf and forget everything.”;

Consistency proved key for Merkle. Sawada's remarkable second round had Moanalua coach Charvis Bush shaking his head: “;She played out of her mind.”;

Ota had his best performance as a varsity golfer, winning his first OIA tournament. He putted well.

“;On the second day, things got a little easier,”; the sophomore said. “;I knew how the green was going to take the ball and my attitude was a lot better. I didn't let bad shots get to me. I took my time on every shot.”;

For Ota, a basketball player, the analogy of patience at the free-throw line and the putting green is seamless. Still, he decided to wait until his next lesson before telling his junior golf coach, Casey Nakama (Olomana Golf Course), about the OIA title.

“;I hope I surprise him,”; Ota said.

The heat and warm trade winds of Makaha's course, plus the 6,600-yard distance, gave the OIA's best golfers thorough preparation for next week's David Ishii/HHSAA State Golf Championships at Kaanapali. Merkle, who recently committed to play for the University of Tulsa, is the defending state girls champion.

Despite the ailments—massage therapy alleviated her shoulder problem—Merkle has dominated her senior season. She won all but one of the OIA tournaments she entered.