Kua scrambles for 74 and stroke-play victory


POSTED: Monday, March 15, 2010

Not bad for a first-timer ... sort of.

While coming up through high school and early in his college career, T.J. Kua's school and golf schedule kept him from competing for the Hawaii State Amateur Stroke Play Championship.

The four-day tournament finally fell into a favorable window this year and Kua claimed the title in his first appearance in the event.

Kua, a University of Hawaii sophomore, wasn't all that thrilled with shooting 2-over-par 74 in yesterday's final round at Pearl Country Club. But it was enough to add the state stroke-play title to the match-play crown he captured last summer by winning the Manoa Cup.

“;I was thinking last night if there are any majors in Hawaii as far as amateur tournaments, it would be Manoa Cup and this tournament,”; Kua said. “;So I was really excited.”;

Kua began the day with a five-shot lead over Bradley Shigezawa and closed the tournament with a four-round total of 5-under 283.

Shigezawa birdied the first hole as he tried to make a run at Kua yesterday. But back-to-back bogeys sapped his momentum and the Punahou senior settled for a 73 to end the weekend at 1-under 287.

“;I had some pretty sloppy errors on the front nine,”; Shigezawa said. “;I couldn't get the speed of the greens down early enough. The greens slowed down from yesterday and I had a hard time adjusting.”;

The rest of the field couldn't make a move either, with only two players shooting rounds of even par. Kamehameha senior Alika Bell's 72 was enough to give him sole possession of third.

Kua didn't play in the state amateur while at Kamehameha to help minimize the amount of class time he missed during the high school golf season, and last year's tournament conflicted with a UH road trip.

With a break in the Rainbow Warriors' schedule this spring, he entered the tournament and built a comfortable lead through the first three days.

While Kua didn't exactly sprint away from the field yesterday, he managed to hold his ground throughout the afternoon, avoiding the level of pressure he endured while sweating out a 1-up duel with Layne Morita in last year's Manoa Cup final.

After his drive at No. 10 went into the rough, his second shot struck a tree limb and dropped about 30 feet in front of him. But he cozied his third shot close to the pin and made the putt to save par.

He encountered another hiccup on the par-3 16th, when his tee shot drifted left, hit a cart path and shot across the fairway, rolling into a pond. After carding his second double bogey of the day, he hit his drive on No. 17 into the trees on the left side. He then drilled a low shot that rolled onto the green, putting him in position for a two-putt birdie.

He closed with a par on No. 18 to seal it.

“;I was scrambling a whole lot today, and to come out with a reasonably decent score is OK,”; Kua said.

“;I wanted to come in with four rounds not over par, but I didn't really do so well. But it was relieving to know I had a lead.”;