The wind blew Ronn Miyashiro's hat off his head as he teed off on the 12th hole at the OCC Men's Invitational yesterday.

Seniority beats
youth at OCC

Merv Matsumoto, 58, wins
the invitational by three strokes
over Christian Akau, 19

Merv Matsumoto had a senior moment yesterday. He forgot how old he was and won the 40th annual Oahu Country Club Invitational -- at the age of 58.

On a day in which gusty 35-mph tradewinds, lightning-fast greens and tricky pin placements sent scores soaring, Matsumoto overcame his age, the elements and a 19-year-old golfer named Christian Akau to win a tournament he has been competing in for 27 years.

"I'm old and slow," the veteran real estate salesman kept saying as he made his way around the course. Yet at day's end, it was Matsumoto standing in the winner's circle holding the trophy, reminding everyone that experience does count and that patience is rewarded.

"I remember years ago when Wendell Kop won this tournament at the age of 55," he said. "He told everyone, 'Be patient. I played in this tournament for 25 years before I finally won.' I thought about that today."

For the record, Matsumoto carded rounds of 72-68-72--212, 1 under par for the 54-hole event and three better than Akau, who finished at 76-215. Gary Kong and Kevin Shimomura tied for third with identical 73-219 totals.

Matsumoto started play on the back nine, trailing co-leader Akau by a shot, but soon found himself behind by three when Akau made a near miraculous birdie at the 14th hole, draining a 60-foot uphill putt, and then followed it with a 6-foot birdie at the par-4 first.

At the par-5 second, his 11th hole, Matsumoto made a clutch par-saving 12-foot putt to stay within three shots and then reeled off three birdies in the next four holes, sticking successive approach shots within 10 feet of the pin to pick up eight shots on Akau, whose driving and short game abruptly deserted him.

At the par-4 third, Akau four-putted from the fringe for a double-bogey, and then made another double-bogey when he drove left into the trees at the par-4 fifth, hit long into a bunker, blasted out and three-putted.

Matsumoto, who birdied those same two holes, suddenly found himself three shots up instead of three behind. When Akau bogeyed the par-5 sixth and Matsumoto made another birdie, his lead was five and the tournament was all but over.

"I lost my confidence after I four-putted the third hole," said Akau, a two-time ILH Player of the Year who led Kamehameha to the state golf title as a senior in high school. "I tried to stop the bleeding, but the wind and the fast greens made it difficult."

Akau, who is entering his sophomore year at the University of Idaho, where he plays on the golf team, said he learned a lot watching Matsumoto. "He may be old," he said, "but he's such a good golfer. And he was so calm the whole time. He seemed so relaxed. ... It was a good learning experience for me."

"I could tell that Christian was nervous down the stretch and that his lack of experience hurt him," said Matsumoto. "But he's a great kid. Courteous and well-mannered. And he just stripes the ball. He's got a great future."

For Matsumoto, who lost the Barbers Point Invitational twice in playoffs, the win was his first as an amateur (not counting senior events) and one he will always remember.

"I'm absolutely thrilled," he said. "I still can't believe it."

Merv Matsumoto chipped from a tough downhill lie on the 18th green at the Oahu Country Club Men's Invitational Golf Tournament yesterday. Matsumoto won the tournament.


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