Corpuz gets her shot and turns it into first-round lead at Jennie K


POSTED: Saturday, May 16, 2009

A return to an old rule gave the Jennie K. Wilson Invitational a youthful feel yesterday.

Allisen Corpuz, the youngest player in the field at age 11, shot a 2-under-par 70 to take the first-round lead in the 59th annual tournament at Mid-Pacific Country Club. Punahou sophomore Cyd Okino, 15, enters today's round in second place, one shot behind Corpuz.

Neither would have been eligible to play in the tournament last year, when an age minimum of 16 years old was enforced.

This year, the tournament committee decided to return to the previous rule, which allowed players younger than 16 with a handicap of 5.0 or lower to play in the championship flight.

“;I'm glad they brought it back so I can play again, because then I'd have to wait another year,”; said Okino, who played in the tournament before the age limit and caddied for a friend last year.

“;I always liked playing this tournament, even though I was young the last time I played it. When I was 12 I was kind of playing just to get a feel for playing in bigger tournaments. Now I'm more used to it.”;

Corpuz and Okino will be joined by two-time Jennie K champion Kristina Merkle and University of Hawaii golfer Corie Hou in today's final group of the 20-player championship flight. The 54-hole tournament concludes tomorrow.

Merkle, fresh off her victory at the David S. Ishii/HHSAA Girls Golf Championship last week on Maui, opened the tournament with a 73. Hou, a second-team All-Western Athletic Conference selection, also shot a steady 73.

Last summer, Corpuz became the youngest player to compete in a USGA championship when she qualified for the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Championship.

Any nervousness Corpuz might have felt in walking to the first tee in her Jennie K debut yesterday quickly dissipated as she made her way around the Lanikai layout with birdies on holes 3, 9 and 13 against just one bogey.

“;I didn't expect to be leading,”; said Corpuz, a fifth-grader at Punahou. “;I was just trying to shoot a good score.”;

Merkle won the Jennie K in 2006 and '07 and shot 33 on the front nine yesterday. She was again strong off the tee, but a shaky short game and a couple of lip-outs on the green contributed to four bogeys in shooting a 40 on the back side.

“;The front nine I played good, going into the back nine I don't know what happened,”; the Moanalua senior said after spending about 45 minutes on the practice green working on her chipping following her round.

Defending champion Xyra Suyetsugu opened with a 79 to tie for 12th place. Suyetsugu will stroll around Mid-Pacific with the 7:48 group this morning, electing to play in the tournament rather than walk the line at UH's graduation ceremony in Manoa.

“;This is a great tournament. Every year they do a great job, so I like to come out there and support it,”; said Suyetsugu, who will have a degree in family resources.