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State medalist adds Jennie K title


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POSTED: Monday, May 18, 2009

Even as she watched Allisen Corpuz pour in one birdie after another, Kristina Merkle still counted time as her closest ally.

So although she trailed the 11-year-old by five shots after eight holes in the final round of the Jennie K. Wilson Invitational yesterday, Merkle focused on the opportunities Mid-Pacific Country Club's remaining 10 holes offered.

“;I just tried to keep my head on,”; Merkle said. “;My caddie just helped me out. He was like, 'We still have plenty holes left. We can still make birdies, plenty of time.' “;

Sure enough, Merkle stayed steady, then capitalized when Corpuz finally gave her an opening and captured her third Jennie K championship in the last four years.

Merkle closed the 59th annual tournament with a 1-under-par 71 and was the only player to finish the 54 holes in red numbers. The Moanalua senior posted a three-day total of 2-under 214 to add the Jennie K title to the state high school championship she won earlier this month.

“;I'm not sure if I'm going to be coming back next year for the summer or if I'm going to be back in time,”; said Merkle, who has signed to play college golf at Tulsa. “;I just wanted to end it right my senior year.”;

While the victory was one of the finishing touches on Merkle's distinguished high school career, this weekend's tournament figures to represent just the beginning for Corpuz.

The Punahou fifth-grader entered the day tied with Merkle at 1 under and opened the final round with three straight birdies then added another on the par-3 sixth hole to move to 5 under for the tournament.

But her putter finally cooled in the afternoon showers that swept through Lanikai as she carded a 3-over 75 to finish four strokes behind Merkle.

“;I just felt like I was going to play pretty good today, but I messed up on the back nine,”; Corpuz said following her first weekend in the Jennie K.

“;There's still next year.”;

Corpuz said she even surprised herself with her spectacular start, and the run certainly got the attention of the rest of the group.

“;To be honest, I was trying to play my own game, but it's hard,”; Merkle said.

Merkle trailed by four strokes going into the back nine and hit her tee shot on No. 10 into the rough on the left side. It was there—about 110 yards away from the green with a bunker guarding the front—that Merkle began her comeback.

“;She hit an unreal second shot. Most of the people who saw that shot had no idea how good that shot was,”; said Todd Nacapuy, Merkle's caddie.

“;She said, 'I can make this shot.' All she did was hit it past the pin, roll it up on the bank and let it come back down. ... It came back to 4 feet and she made the birdie. That was the best shot she hit all day and that turned a lot of it around.”;

Merkle still trailed by three going into the par-3 14th, but a three-putt left Corpuz with a double bogey to drop her to 1 under. The lead then changed hands on No. 15 when Merkle drilled her tee shot down the middle of the fairway then stuck a 7-iron about 5 feet from the pin. The birdie moved her to 1 under while another bogey sent Corpuz to even par.

Already a long hitter off the tee, Merkle turned up the power another notch the rest of the way and punctuated the weekend with a birdie on No. 18.

“;The adrenaline kicked in and I became the Hulk after a while,”; Merkle said. “;I have orange on, but I was turning green.”;