Star-Bulletin Sports


Travis Toyama, the youngest winner in Manoa Cup history, got the congratulatory toss into the pool at the Oahu Country Club after winning yesterday. Throwing Toyama are Mark Rosen and Travis' father, Masa, who followed Travis into the pool.

Youth gets served
at Manoa Cup

Teenager Travis Toyama makes
Kauai's Damien Victorino feel his age

By Grady Timmons
Special to the Star-Bulletin

So much for age and experience.

Those things are supposed to mean something when you're playing for the venerable Manoa Cup.

But yesterday in Nuuanu Valley they counted not a whit as the tournament crowned the youngest champion it its 94-year-old history.

Nevermind that the champion, 15-year-old Travis Toyama, was too young to drink the champagne traditionally reserved for the winner. When you have just survived a weeklong death march over the hills of the Oahu Country Club, victory tastes sweet even if its served up in a glass of the club's world-famous iced tea.

And sweet it was. Toyama had to go 33 holes before turning back Kauai amateur Damien Victorino 5 and 3 in the 36-hole final. Altogether, he beat six opponents in five days to claim the Manoa Cup, which symbolizes the Hawaii Amateur Match Play Championship.

"Winning feels great, but I'm tired," the University High School golfer said afterward. "Mentally and physically, playing nine rounds of golf in six days (including Monday's qualifying) takes a toll on you, especially on this course."

Damien Victorino congratulated Manoa Cup winner Travis Toyama after Toyama won on the 15th hole.

Toyama admitted that when he entered the tournament he wasn't thinking about winning. "Last year I made to the third round," he said. "This year my goal was to make it to the quarterfinals. Once I got past that point I really didn't feel a lot of pressure. I figured that if I didn't win this year, I still had another 20 or 30 years to do it."

Now there's a sobering thought. And here's another. The combined ages of the current state men's and women's amateur match play champions is 26 -- 11-year-old Stephanie Kono having won the women's title last summer at OCC.

Victorino, who won this event in 1996, was the last of the veterans to fall in a week dominated by young golfers. First it was 12-year-old Michelle Wie, who became the youngest golfer and the first female to advance in the Manoa Cup. Then it was 14-year-old Kurt Nino, who ousted 41-year-old four-time champion Brandan Kop in the quarterfinals before being beaten on the 36th hole in the semis by Toyama.

That left only Victorino, who turns 33 today, to ward off the youth movement. "I was the old man all week," said the Kauai amateur, who turned back two high school students and two University of Hawaii-Hilo golfers to gain the final. "I had hoped to intimidate Travis, but he's a tough young gun."

Indeed, the 5-foot-5, 125-pound Toyama trailed only once yesterday, and that was early on when Victorino birdied the par-5 second hole. Toyama quickly evened the match with a par at the third and then won Nos. 9, 10 and 11 to take a 3-up lead.

Victorino fought back, taking 13, 14 and 15 to pull even before enduring his worst stretch of golf the entire week. From the 17th hole in the morning round through the 22nd hole in the afternoon, he lost six straight holes, five of them with bogeys, to go 6-down.

"It started going bad and it just snowballed," he said. "I missed a lot of greens today, and I just wasn't able to recover. I tried to turn it up, but it wasn't there. "

Said Toyama: "After winning those six holes I felt pretty comfortable. "From that point on, I told myself to just play safe, play smart, don't open the door and allow him to come back."

Victorino, however, did give it one last shot, winning the 27th and 28th holes. At the 29th, OCC's 198-yard par-3 11th, he had a chance to cut the lead to three, but three-putted from the fringe. He squandered another opportunity at the next hole, OCC's uphill, par-4 12th, when he stubbed a chip from the front of the green and watched in disgust as the ball rolled back off the putting surface. He ended up halving the hole with a bogey when Toyama three-putted from 35 feet above the cup.

"When you're trying to come back from 6-down, everything has to be perfect," Victorino said. "If I would have won those two holes, I might have had a chance. But I didn't get it done."

For his victory, Toyama received a gift certificate worth $500, a green jacket, and the ceremonial toss in the clubhouse pool. The last teen to win the Manoa Cup was Chipper Garris, who was 17 when he won the title in 1967.

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