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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, August 9, 2001

Kyono leads by one in state stroke play

By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer

LANIKAI — A spectacular finish and a "brain lapse" are all that prevent a three-way tie for first going into today's final round of the Hawai'i State Women's Golf Association Stroke Play Championship.

Defending champion Rachel Kyono has a one-shot lead heading into the final round of State Women's Stroke Play Championship.

Kyle Sackowski • The Honolulu Advertiser

Defending champion Rachel Kyono chipped in on the last hole to shoot even-par 72 yesterday at Mid-Pacific Country Club. That gave her a one-shot advantage over 11-year-old Michelle Wie (75-148). Anna Umemura, who won this tournament in 1997 and '99, is three back, at 6-over-par 150.

Umemura's 72 included five birdies, but left her unfulfilled. It is a feeling she rarely experienced in 1997, when she became the first woman to win all of Hawai'i's major golf tournaments in the same year.

Since, she has suffered through a frustrating collegiate career at Tennessee and a major swing change she eventually trashed. Flashes of her brilliance were back yesterday, interrupted by flashes of frustration.

She was two under for the day after 14 holes, and shared the lead with Kyono and Wie. But Umemura's drive on the (par-4) 15th careened right into the trees. It kicked back into the fairway, but she pulled her second shot pin-high left, then pitched over the green from a bad lie. She missed a four-foot bogey putt, then had her swing break down again on the next hole.

"I had it going and I hit 15 and double-bogeyed it, then bogeyed 16 when I should have birdied that," Umemura said. "I three-putted there, left myself a pretty long putt. But I should have hit the green there. I had a total brain lapse."

Kyono's advantage can be attributed to a "brain-lapse" free first two rounds, clutch putting on Mid-Pacific's perplexing greens and a couple of bombs yesterday on the back nine.

She buried a 25-foot birdie putt at the 12th to tie for the lead, then slam-dunked her third shot on the final green — chipping from the fringe — to go ahead.

The absolute absence of trouble is typical of Kyono's game. She won here last year, after placing third the year before. In May, the Kaua'i High senior ran away with the state girls high school championship. In two weeks, she heads to Pepperdine on a golf scholarship.

When she started playing competitively, Umemura, now 22, was winning everything in sight. "I remember she was dominating," Kyono said. "I remember thinking I want to be like her when I grow up."

Now Wie is at that impressionable age, with an impressive game to go with it.

She won the Jennie K. here in May and made the course look even shorter yesterday, hitting all of her approach shots from inside 100 yards.

The 5-foot-9 Punahou seventhgrader birdied the first hole (353-yard par 4), launching her drive 300 yards and sinking a nine-foot putt. But, after a 320-yard drive on the next hole, she missed a 12-footer and lost her touch.

She needed birdies on the eighth and ninth holes to get back to even par, then three-putted the next three holes.

She parred out, needing a 24-foot putt on the 17th after driving deep into the water hazard.

She shrugged it off and prepared to win here, again.

"I'll just focus on my game, think about every shot," Wie said. "Try and hit the sweet spot and hit it good. Just be satisfied."

Satisfaction is what Umemura is seeking as well.

"I feel more comfortable being behind," Umemura admitted. "It's kind of intimidating having Michelle Wie right after you. It's like having Tiger Woods chase after you. It will be good tomorrow.

"I started playing tournaments at 16, and I was the little baby. At 22, I still feel like the little baby, but I see these little 11-year-olds and they're not little, and I'm twice their age. That's remarkable to me. I would never comprehend that."

Merynn Ito, the 2000 girls state high school champion, is alone in fourth at 76-151. Kathy Tsukada (78-152) is another shot back and Bobbi Kokx, a two-time Jennie K. champion, is at 76-153.