Star-Bulletin Sports

Saturday, June 9, 2001

[ GOLF ]

Koshi outlasts Ota in
Manoa Cup, faces Asao
for match-play crown

By Paul Arnett

About the time Jonathan Ota won the high school state championship in golf, 22-year-old Ryan Koshi was coming into this world. Not surprisingly, that played a factor in yesterday's marathon Manoa Cup match held on the hilly and windswept Oahu Country Club course.

An hour after Hawaii Baptist Academy golfer Kellen-Floyd Asao secured a spot in today's 36-hole final of the 93rd annual match play event, Ota and Koshi fought on.

An eagle on the par-5 15th allowed Koshi to finally draw even with the 39-year-old Ota, a man he trailed by as many as three holes during the seven-hour match. It finally ended on the 37th hole with a tired Ota missing an 8-footer for par, setting center stage for Koshi and Asao.

"Ryan was the better man today," Ota said. "He's one of the top golfers in the state. I'm getting a little older, so I tried to sneak in one or two more Manoa Cups, while I can still walk it. When was I tired? Tuesday.

"With all these young kids, it's getting tough nowadays. I had a great match. I really had a great week. But I started getting tired on the 19th hole. It's hard walking this course. You're going to feel it."

Asao wasn't one to argue that point. Despite closing out 15-year-old Kamehameha Schools' Chris Caycayon at 3 and 2 with a par on the 16th, the 18-year-old was feeling the effects of the semifinals match.

"I'm so tired right now, I just want to get some sleep," Asao said, then smiled. His brother, Norman, made it to the final last year, before losing to Randy Shibuya.

"I will talk with him to get some tips," Asao said. "It's exhausting, but it feels good to make it this far. My brother has played against Ryan a few times. He's very good."

These days, the 22-year-old Koshi is a porter at Kahalui Airport on Maui. While advancing to the final is a good thing on the golf side of life for Koshi, a week away from work does hit the pocketbook.

"But it would be worth it to get a win here," Koshi said. "This is as far as I've advanced in this tournament. It's only my second time. I felt pretty good today. I made some bad shots.

"You're going to have some bad shots on a windy day like this. It's pretty strong out there. I came back on one hole and made that eagle on the 15th (33rd hole overall). That boosted my confidence a little bit. It was about 35 feet. I got lucky."

Luck didn't have much to do with Asao's win over Caycayon. He was 1-up after 18 holes, but wasn't able to distance himself from the 10th-grader until the back nine of the second round. Caycayon birdied the 15th to avoid a 4 and 3 fate, but the par-3 16th did him in.

"He stayed with me pretty much all day," Asao said of Caycayon, a golfer he has never faced in match play. "We've played against each other in stroke play, like the state tournament. He's tough.

"I felt like the birdie on the 19th hole (first of the second round) was big because I hadn't made many putts in the first round. I like match play because it awards you for taking chances. If you get a double and they birdie, you lose only one hole not three strokes."

Caycayon is just getting started with statewide events such as the Manoa Cup. He hopes the experience helps in the prep state tournaments that await him in the future.

"I learned today that you're never out of it, you can always come back," Caycayon said. "Match play is a lot different. You can fall behind early and still catch up. On this course, you have to hit the fairways and stay below the hole. You don't have a chance here above the hole."

That's sound advice for Koshi and Asao, who will be looking for their first Manoa Cup win. While this twosome has never squared off with so much on the line, they are familiar with each other's games. Asao and his family followed Koshi and Ota over the final five holes.

"The putts on 18 for par by both guys were clutch," Asao said of the 12-footer by Ota and the 8-footer by Koshi to send the match to the deciding 37th hole. "I knew whoever won that match would be a very good opponent."

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