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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 11, 2002

Japan, U.S. rookies show their mettle in first round

 •  Riley, Perry tame winds to share lead
 • Maggert, Sluman teams tie for Pro-Am win
 • Ferd Lewis: Caddy, not Zamboni right call
 •  Tournament historical statistics

By Bill Kwon
Special to the Advertiser

So much for East is East and West is West. Whoever said the twain shall never meet?

Tomohiro Kondo, the Japan PGA Tour’s 2001 rookie of the year, shot a 4-over 74 yesterday in the first round of the Sony Open in Hawai‘i.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

It did at the Waialae Country Club in the first round of the Sony Open in Hawai'i yesterday as the rookies of the year from the American and Japanese tours showed that, if nothing else, golf's the same the world over.

"It was a little windy out there and that made it a tough day," said Charles Howell III, the PGA Tour's 2001 rookie of the year.

"I had a lot of trouble with the wind," said Tomohiro Kondo, the best first-year player on the Japan Golf Tour in 2001.

Howell: "Let's see if we can't hang it there tomorrow."

Kondo: "I would like to have a good round tomorrow."

Howell shot a 2-over-par 72, Kondo a 74 that included five birdies.

For both, this was their first look at Waialae, although they have been to Hawai'i before.

Kondo, who is 24, previously visited here three times on vacation.

Howell, who is 22, also came here three years in a row with the Oklahoma State golf team to play in the John Burns Intercollegiate tournament at Kane'ohe Klipper.

He was a two-time first team All-American and NCAA individual champion in his junior year. Kondo was also an outstanding collegiate player at Tokyo's Sanshu University before turning pro.

Charles Howell III, who earned Rookie of the Year honors on the PGA Tour last season while pocketing $1.52 million, shot a 2-over-par 72 in the first round yesterday at the Waialae Country Club.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

Both made quite an impact in their rookie year.

Howell joined an exclusive club last year by earning his PGA Tour card without having to go to Qualifying School and without winning a tournament. Playing on sponsor's exemptions, Howell earned $1.52 million, which would have put him 33rd on the money list if he had been a tour member.

"It was a good year for me. I started the season with no status anywhere, which is quite a bit different to this year. I had a lot of fun, played a lot of good tournaments. Hopefully, I can repeat it this year," Howell said.

Kondo finished 30th on the Japan money list with $270,000. Like Howell, he is still looking for his first victory as each had a second-place finish last year.

Howell's closest brush with victory came in the Greater Milwaukee Open where he lost in a playoff to Shigeki Maruyama.

"It was obviously exciting whenever you're close to the lead like that. It hurt a little bit when I lost that playoff. You want to win, and when you're that close to winning, you definitely want to win. But that's the way it goes," Howell said.

Besides looking for his first victory, Howell would like nothing better than to win the Masters.

"It would mean a lot, being from Augusta," he said.

Both felt they exceeded all expectations last year and would like to do better in 2002.

Kondo's runnerup finish came in the Tokai Georgia Classic. He had three other top-10 finishes.

Charles Howell I and II didn't golf, but Kondo learned the game from his father, Satoru, who once operated a driving range near Nagoya.

Unlike Howell, Kondo is not married.

Howell and his wife, Heather, are enjoying a second honeymoon of sorts. They were married on Maui last June.

"We just wanted to get married there because it's Hawai'i and she had never been here before," Howell said. "Hawai'i's a neat place and she had never been here before. All our family came here for the wedding.

"It can't get any better than that."