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Champion Ching ousted by Nino at Manoa Cup


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POSTED: Friday, June 19, 2009

Kurt Nino's father has a new job.

Amor Nino doubled as a masseuse for a day, and might have to supply a few more therapy sessions if his son continues to roll through the 101st Manoa Cup.

Kurt Nino ousted defending champion Alex Ching, 3 and 2, yesterday in a round-of-16 match played at an exceptional level from start to finish at Oahu Country Club.

The two friends and past champions came into the day battling ailments—a balky back for Nino, a recent illness for Ching—but it was the 2007 champ who survived another trek up and down the hilly Nuuanu course and advanced to today's quarterfinals.

Nino denied Ching a chance to become the first back-to-back winner at OCC since Brandan Kop accomplished the feat in 1997 and '98. The 21-year-old won four of the final five holes to pull away after the match was all square at the turn.

Afterward, the recent University of San Francisco graduate gestured at Dad as his reason for surviving a third opponent at the state amateur match play championship.

“;Yeah, I got my personal masseuse right here,”; Nino said. “;Nah, I tried to stretch a little bit, have my dad loosen me up (Wednesday), and that's about it.”;

He and 2004 champ Ryan Perez, a 3-and-2 winner over Samuel Rodriguez III, are the only past champions remaining. A grueling test awaits; the quarterfinals tee off at 7 a.m. today, with the winners rewarded by playing again in the noon semifinals.

“;For this tournament, I think I'll do that for him, just to keep him going, fix him up a little bit,”; said Amor Nino, a food manufacturer who's also caddied this week. “;Whatever a dad can do. Unless he wants to go see the (therapist) again to get a professional one.”;

Yesterday's match swung on Nos. 12 and 13, when Nino and Ching faced similar shots but elicited different results.

On 12, both faced a chip up onto the green and needed to apply considerable backspin to get the ball near the pin. Nino succeeded with an amazing shot, but Ching's ball hit a dead spot on the green and didn't budge.

Nino converted that go-ahead hole, then the two found themselves with nearly identical 7-footers for birdie on 13. Nino went first and dropped his shot in, but Ching came up an inch short.

“;I think that was good for me to putt first because it gives me the advantage,”; Nino said. “;I knew the line, I played here a bunch of times. I just stuck with it and it went in. Alex, I don't know if he pushed it or anything, but he missed and that gave me a good boost.”;

It turned out to be the key shot of the match, as the defending champ never recovered, despite matching Nino with seven birdies in 16 holes.

Ching refused to use his fatigue as an excuse.

“;Today I was just going to go out there, have fun and play,”; said Ching, a member of the University of San Diego golf team. “;We just went out there and both of us made a lot of birdies. He made some more putts than me, so that's how it ended up.”;

The drama wasn't confined to the battle of past champions. Of the eight matches yesterday, three went to extra holes, including a 22-hole thriller between David Saka and Kalena Preus.

Saka saved himself on the 21st hole with a great chip from below the green to within a foot of the cup, and followed by sticking his tee shot on the par-3 No. 4 hole to within 2 feet to win the match. He is the highest remaining seed at No. 3.

“;I got lucky,”; said Saka, a Moanalua High senior-to-be.

T.J. Kua outlasted Bradley Yosaitis in 21 holes by staying steady until Yosaitis muffed two chip shots and conceded victory.

Christopher Armanini bested 14-year-old Rudy Cabalar on the 19th hole when the Campbell sophomore had a birdie putt lip out.

Other matches were Layne Morita over Alika Bell, 7 and 6, Scott Ichimura over Marc Rosen, 6 and 4, and Robert Szymaszek over Doug Williams, 1-up.