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Star-Bulletin Sports

Friday, August 4, 2000

H A W A I I _ G O L F

By Kathryn Bender, Star-Bulletin
Rachel Kyono concentrates on this shot during
yesterday's final round.

A major victory for
high school senior

Kauai's Rachel Kyono wins
the Hawaii State Women's Golf
Association Stroke Play
Championship at Mid-Pacific

By Bill Kwon

When it comes to Mid-Pac's perilous par-4 17th hole, no lead is ever safe.

It's only 316 yards in length, but ever so narrow. And a strong crosswind makes the tight fairway even tighter.

Nobody knows that better than Rachel Kyono, who won her first major tournament by a whopping eight strokes in the Hawaii State Women's Golf Association Stroke Play Championship yesterday.

Last year, she triple-bogeyed the hole to lose to Anna Umemura. So here she was again, in the lead stepping to the 17th tee.

"It was almost deja vu," said Kyono, who shot a final-round 71 for a 54-hole total of 219.

This time it was her nearest challenger, Bobbi Kokx, who triple-bogeyed the hole.

Playing in the final threesome with Kokx and 10-year-old sensation Michelle Wie, Kyono watched as both pushed their tee shots out of bounds.

Kyono went with a 3-wood and her drive was safe by some 15 yards after a heart-stopping moment. She found the left bunker on her second shot but sank an 8-foot putt for par.

A par at the 18th was a mere formality.

"It feels great," said Kyono about her breakthrough victory. "Now I know how Anna felt when she won."

"I'm happy to see her win. She deserves it," said Umemura, who played in the foursome ahead and stayed to congratulate Kyono.

Kyono, who began the final round two strokes back of Kokx, posted a 2-under 34 on the front nine with four birdies.

Birdieing the opening hole helped her confidence, said Kyono, who will be a senior at Kauai High School next month.

She also birdied the third, sixth and ninth holes, sinking a 20-foot putt at the par-3 sixth and chipping in from the fringe at the par-4 ninth. The birdie-2 at No. 6, which put Kyono ahead to stay, proved to be a two-shot swing as Kokx bogeyed the hole.

Kokx, the reigning Jennie K. champion, got to within three strokes of Kyono after the latter bogeyed 13 and 14.

A bogey at 15 dropped Kokx four back, but she birdied 16th, as her eagle putt from the fringe lipped the cup.

But the OB at 17 ended any hopes of winning the last of the three women's amateur majors this year.

"I wanted to play aggressive and went with a driver," said Kokx, who finished with an 81 for a 227 total.

The 36-year-old Kokx, a former UH women's golf coach, felt like a mother hen playing with the two youngsters, especially Wie, the youngest ever to play in a USGA championship.

"Ten years old! That's the age of my students," said Kokx, an elementary school teacher.

Playing in her first major tournament locally, Wie closed with an 80 for 228 and third place, a shot better than Umemura, a University of Tennessee senior.

Wie, who will be a sixth-grader at Punahou School, also finished ahead of collegians Kathy Cho, Bridget Dwyer and Desiree Ting and 1998 state girls' champion Shayna Miyajima, who will enroll at San Diego State this fall.

"I wasn't nervous," said the precocious Wie, who made golfing headlines by qualifying for the U.S. Women's Public Links Championship this summer.

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