Star-Bulletin Sports

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Regan Lee blasted out of this bunker beside the 12th green on his way to winning the Mid-Pac Open yesterday.

Lee rides the
wind to win

The Hawaii pro evades trouble
and captures the Mid-Pacific Open

By Grady Timmons
Special to the Star-Bulletin

Regan Lee probably would have scoffed if you had told him on Saturday that a final round of even-par would win the Mid-Pacific Open.

For three rounds, soft greens, immaculate conditions and an absence of wind had left the normally difficult Mid-Pacific Country Club layout defenseless, resulting in a rash of under-par scores.

Lee had led the assault with rounds 65-68-67. When he and fellow pros Kevin Hayashi and Shinsuke Yanagisawa teed off yesterday, they were a combined 40-under.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the championship -- the tradewinds returned. The result was that Lee took par to the bank, posting a final-round 72 for a winning 16-under-par total of 272 and a paycheck worth $6,000.

Hayashi and Yanagisawa also could do no better than par, Hayashi placing second at 72-275, and Yanagisawa third at 72-277.

Kevin Hayashi shot a 275 at this weekend's Mid-Pacific Open to finish three strokes back of winner Regan Lee.

For Lee, it was the second victory of his professional career and the first time he has led a tournament from start to finish. "I won the Waikoloa Open in 2001, but this is definitely my biggest win," he said. "I just tried to stay focused today. I struggled with my ball-striking all week, but my short game was sharp. I putted really well."

Despite being 16-under at the day's start, Lee only had a three-stroke lead. At that time, another round in the 60s not only seemed possible, it seemed necessary. And the tournament record of 17-under-par 271, set by David Ishii in 1986, appeared well within his reach.

Thanks to the wind, that record never fell. "It was a completely different course today," said Lee. "At least two or three shots tougher. It's hard to make birdies when the wind kicks up."

The wind also made it hard to hold a lead. Hayashi got off to a fast start with birdies at the par-5 third and fifth holes. When Lee bogeyed the fifth, taking three to get down from the back of the green, his three-shot lead was suddenly gone.

Lee rallied at the turn, sticking a 7-iron to within three feet for a birdie at nine, and then draining an uphill 30-footer for birdie at 10. When Hayashi three-putted nine and missed a five-footer for birdie at 10, Lee's lead was again three shots. Thereafter, he was never seriously challenged.

"I figured I had to shoot in the 60s to have a chance of catching Regan," said Hayashi. "He's so steady, and he's long enough that he can overpower a lot of holes. ... I was satisfied with the way I hit the ball, but I didn't have a lot of confidence with the putter. And it's hard to make a move when you don't have that confidence."

Yanagisawa, who began the day at 11-under, got it to 13-under with birdies at the third and seventh holes. But a bogey at the ninth, a three-putt at 15 and a missed three-footer for birdie at 16 left him playing for third.

Lee, who lost twice in the finals of the Manoa Cup, the men's State Amateur Match Play Championship, turned pro in 2000 and last year gained valuable experience by playing on the Canadian Tour. Later this year, he plans to play the Gateway Tour in Arizona.

"Regan's game has really come around," said Hayashi, who for several years has been Hawaii's dominant golfer. "He practices hard and it shows. His short game was much better than mine today."

Lee is also the son of Linda Kop Lee and thus a member of the famous golfing family that has also produced Guinea, Wendell, Danny and Brandan Kop. Brandan, who is Regan's cousin, is a former Mid-Pac Open winner. He finished as the top amateur in this year's event at 71-288.

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