Gutsy performances in a day to remember
|||'First Tee' to open at Camp Homelani|
|||Holes in One|
By Bill Kwon
By Bill Kwon
Aug. 13, 2006.
Jot it down and store it with your other golf memorabilia because it's the biggest single day in local golf history.
Hawai'i has had national golf champions before — Jackie Pung won the U.S. Women's Amateur in 1952 and Ted Makalena and David Ishii both captured a PGA Tour event, the Hawaiian Open, at the Waialae Country Club.
But never before have we seen two native islanders — Kimberly Kim and Dean Wilson — make national headlines with victories on the same day. And in such dramatic fashion.
Kim, 14, became the youngest champion in the 111-year history of the U.S. Women's Amateur with a laid-back but gutty 1-up victory in 36 holes over Germany's Katharina Schallenberg, after being five down at one point in their match.
Wilson recorded his breakthrough victory in his 118th PGA Tour start, outplaying the field in the International to join Makalena and Ishii as the only golfers from here to win on that tour.
That they both did it on the same day was mind-blowing. When that wondrous Sunday afternoon ended, it was Hawai'i 2, the World 0.
"I don't know her," said Wilson, who's in Chicago for the PGA Championship at Medinah starting today. "But I knew she was in the final and later found out that she won. I'm very happy for her and for the state of Hawai'i."
Wilson also did himself — and Hawai'i — proud.
"It's a great relief, but also exciting. It's something I've worked hard for," said Wilson, 36, a Kane'ohe native, about his first victory in his fourth year on the PGA Tour. His best finish had been a tie for third in the 2004 Valero Texas Open.
"I really wanted to win and always felt like I could win. It's always about trying to win," he said.
That it came at the International at Castle Pines Golf Club in Colorado in a Stableford event with a different scoring method was a bit of a surprise, according to Wilson.
"It's the only event other than the World Match Play that's not stroke play. Your mindset has to have a hint of aggressiveness. It's an event in which birdie-bogey-par is better than par-par-par. I made a lot of birdies," added Wilson, who also had two eagles for a total of 34 points.
Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman also had 34 points and lost in a two-hole playoff to Wilson, who actually shot 9 under to Lehman's 13 under for the week.
Wilson more than doubled his season's earnings to $1.9 million with the biggest paycheck of his career. But he was soon reminded that the victory also got him into the Mercedes Championships at Kapalua, Maui.
"That will be exciting, being from Hawai'i and representing the state," said Wilson, noting that this time, he'll be in a PGA event for winners only. He's also well aware that he'll be starting the 2007 season in back-to-back events at home, with the Sony Open in Hawai'i at Waialae the following week.
The International victory provided a more immediate perk for Wilson.
"It got me into the World Series of Golf the week after the PGA Championship," he said. It'll be his first appearance in the limited-field event, now called the World Golf Championship Bridgestone Invitational, at the Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio.
Way to step up in the world, Dean. No Reno-Tahoe Open for him next week.
Speaking of perks, get a load of what Kim reaped with her victory at the Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in Oregon, capping a remarkable summer of golf for the Hilo native who was a finalist in the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links and the youngest player to make the cut in the U.S. Women's Open:
"It'll save me a lot of stress," Kim said about her exemptions.
And, when told by a USGA moderator at the press conference following her victory that she probably would be a "lock" for the Curtis Cup team next year and the Women's World Amateur team championship this October in South Africa, a still-dazed Kim replied, "Really?"
We'd like to see Kim get yet another perk — a sponsor's exemption to next year's SBS Open at Turtle Bay, especially if Michelle Wie skips it as she did this year.
After all, you did notice that Kim wore a Turtle Bay Resort cap all week.
Kim, who turns 15 next Wednesday, might now reside in the Phoenix area, but when she flashed that shaka sign while holding the championship trophy, you know that she's still a local girl at heart.
"That shaka went out to all my Hawai'i people 'cause (it'll) always be my home," Kim said.