Miyagi alters her focus to benefit of Warriors
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By Bill Kwon
Julie Miyagi's fervor for competitive golf on a personal level may be on the back burner for now. However, the player-turned-coach wants to continue to stoke the game's passion for the players on her Kamehameha girls golf team, especially freshman Mari Chun, who won the Interscholastic League of Honolulu individual title.
Eugene Tanner The Honolulu Advertiser
Julie Miyagi offers Wendee Augustiro some tips during the Kamehameha Schools girls golf team practice at Mid-Pacific Country Club.
Eugene Tanner The Honolulu Advertiser
Two of her players, Chun and Wendee Augustiro, another ninth-grader, have qualified to play in the David S. Ishii State Girls Championship today and tomorrow at the Hawai'i Prince Course.
"Mari has so much potential," Miyagi said. "She wants to be the best so badly and does everything to try to become that. She has so much discipline. I'm impressed. I wasn't like that at that age."
Not that the 1996 University of Hawai'i graduate is an old lady, mind you. She plans on taking a two-year break before making any decision on whether to try the tour circuit again.
"My heart isn't in it right now. It takes so much time and effort," said Miyagi, the Hawai'i State Women's Golf Association match-play champion in 1995 when she was a junior at UH.
Miyagi turned pro the following year, working as a teaching pro at the Ko'olau Golf Club while taking lessons from Ed Tischler. She missed the cut in the final LPGA Q-School in 1998 and 1999 before playing on the Futures and Players West tours.
Scuffling on the lesser tours can take its toil. The LPGA Tour, it is not.
"It's really expensive and the returns are not that great," said Miyagi, who traveled with two other local golfers Christel Tomori in 1998 and Marie Miyashiro, the past 2 1/2 years, while being based in Tucson, Ariz.
The expenses run about $500-$1,000 a week for the 20-event season.
Costs are cut by staying in private homes. Air fare? Forget it.
"It's a driving tour," Miyagi said.
A driving tour as in driving anywhere from 5-15 hours, sometimes even 20 hours, from one tournament to the next.
"You get to know the chain restaurants very well," Miyagi said. "We usually stay over the Sunday after the tournament. Monday is travel day, Tuesday practice and the pro-am Thursday, sometimes also on Wednesdays.
"There's a lot of camaraderie. It's not cliquish because everybody is struggling."
Miyagi decided it was enough struggling for now, and came home last August. She recently took a 9-5 job with Lee & Associates as a financial services assistant. She also works Sundays in the Mid-Pacific Country Club pro shop.
Miyagi wasn't home for more than a month when Wesley Wailehua, the head of Kamehameha's golf program, asked her to help out because the school was interested in upgrading its girls golf to comply with gender equity.
It had been treated more like an intramural program in the past.
"I've known of her for a long time," said Wailehua, who asked Miyagi to come aboard because the girls program needed a stronger female influence. "It's worked out extremely well."
Miyagi's "Imua Kamehameha" ties weren't known until she was hired. Her father, Fred, is a 1972 Kamehameha graduate, and Julie even has a little Hawaiian with her Japanese and Chinese extraction.
Miyagi is amazed by how much girls golf has progressed since her days at McKinley High School where she also lettered in soccer.
There were only a handful of good wahine players before, but not now, according to Miyagi.
"And it's a huge step having their separate league and state tournament," she said.
Miyagi also is well aware, as a coach, of the potential of the rival Punahou girls team, especially when 12-year-old Michelle Wie becomes eligible to play in two years.
"It's weird, isn't it, that she's not playing because she's only in the seventh grade," Miyagi said. "She's already so good for her age. She's going to be incredible."
Miyagi admits that she was not that talented in high school golf.
"I wasn't really into golf until college," said Miyagi, who played for three different coaches in four years at UH-Manoa.
With the Hawai'i State Open as the only event for women pros locally unless she plays in men's tournaments from the back tees Miyagi doesn't see herself playing much golf.
The next time you will see her on a golf course after tomorrow will be at the Jennie K. Invitational next weekend when she will be caddying for the 14-year-old Chun.
Bill Kwon can be reached at email@example.com.