Star-Bulletin Sports


Travis Toyama's tee shot went short on No. 11, but he recovered to win No. 12.

Teens ‘play without
fear’ to advance
to semifinals

Nino and Toyama beat older
opponents in the quarterfinals
of the Manoa Cup

By Ryan Ito
Special to the Star-Bulletin

Youth is not being wasted on the young at this week's Manoa Cup.

Teenagers Kurt Nino and Travis Toyama continued the youth movement in Hawaii golf with quarterfinal victories yesterday at the Oahu Country Club in the lush and green mountainside of Nuuanu Valley.

Nino, 14, defeated four-time champion Brandan Kop 6 and 5, while Toyama, 15, defeated Del-Marc Fujita 3 and 2.

The victories are just another sign that youth is serving notice to island golfers. Only a few days ago, Michelle Wie, all of 12 years old and Hawaii's Teen Golf Scene poster child, became the first female golfer in the 94 years of the Manoa Cup to advance into the second round.

With Toyama and Nino set to square off in today's semifinals, a teenager will be playing for the 2002 Manoa Cup.

"They are really good and basically play without fear," Fujita said about the pair of youngsters. "They hit the ball a long way and they are straight. They are a lot better than the kids I played when I was growing up.

"I remember playing here. And I would be happy getting the ball to the 150-yard marker. Travis was hitting to within 60 to 70 yards from the green. But he is very well polished and puts a lot of time into his game. And he did a lot of good things out there as well. He deserved to win today."

And while better equipment and an increasing interest by youngsters in the sport are good reasons for junior golf's rise in Hawaii, Toyama sees another factor to his success at the match-play tournament.

Kurt Nino beat four-time Manoa Cup champion Brandan Kop in yesterday's quarterfinals at Oahu Country Club.

"I think there is more pressure on (the older golfers) because they don't want to lose to us," Toyama said. "But for the juniors, this is good because (our performance) shows how we are stepping (our golf game) up and how we can play and what we can do.

"We have no pressure. I feel sorry for them because they don't want to lose to us, but that is how it is."

In his match, Toyama grabbed an early lead on Fujita, winning four of the first six holes, including a birdie on the par-4 5th. Fujita made a run, winning the 9th, 10th and 11th holes to cut Toyama's lead to one. But Toyama won the par-4 12th with a par and, after halving the next three holes, sealed the victory by winning the 16th with a par.

"You need to control your approach into the green, so the key to that is hitting the fairway," Fujita said. "For most of the week, I've been lucky. When I missed the fairway I would have good lies so I could hit the greens. But today I hit some poor shots out of the rough. And it is hard to win like that, playing defense and trying to halve the hole."

In other quarterfinal matches, Hee Beom Kim defeated Troy Higashiyama 4 and 3. Kim birdied four of 15 holes (Nos. 1, 6, 10 and 13) and never trailed in the match.

Former Manoa Cup champion Damien Victorino, at 32 the oldest competitor left, defeated first-time entrant Wade Nakamura in 19 holes. Victorino, who won in 1997, birdied the 17th to square the match and send it to extra holes. Victorino then won the match with a par on the first extra hole.

"I didn't know what to expect," said a somewhat dejected Nakamura after his loss to Victorino. "I just tried to hit the ball as best as I could. Unfortunately in the playoff, I hit the ball left into the trees. I've been hitting (the ball) there all week, but this time it got down into some of the branches and it was just some hard luck."

With their victories, Victorino and Kim are paired in the other semifinal.

Today's semifinal matches consist of 36 holes, with the first 18 holes played in the morning. After a half-hour break, the final 18 holes will be played. Victorino and Kim tee off at 7 a.m., followed by Toyama and Nino.

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