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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Moanalua's Fujikawa qualifies for Sony

Sony Open qualifier gallery

By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer

Tadd Fujikawa, 15, shot the day's best round a 67 in tough conditions at Waialae Country Club.

DEBORAH BOOKER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Abe Mariano

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David Chin

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Rarely do golf's idiosyncrasies surface with the abandon shown yesterday at the Sony Open in Hawai'i Aloha Section PGA Member-Only Qualifying at Waialae Country Club.

There were young and old, and short and long. Golfers ready to snap their putters in two found late redemption and reconciliation. Guys hitting the ball pure all day or in David Ishii's case, most of his life were haunted by one bad swing. One hit a ball that hit him back after ricocheting off a tree.

Ultimately, and fittingly on this day of the golf absurd, amateur Tadd Fujikawa cut through Waialae's gusty winds and ferocious rough to shoot the day's low round a 5-under-par 67.

By definition, Aloha Section PGA members are professionals. Fujikawa, a Moanalua High School sophomore, was competing for the lone amateur spot open to the 12 who earned a place on this year's Governor's Cup amateur team. He turns 16 on the Monday of Sony Open week, with the tournament Jan. 11 to 14.

The two Sony Open spots up for grabs among the 46 pros were won by Abe Mariano, an instructor at Pure Golf Academy, and David Chin, now in his 28th year as pro at Navy-Marine Golf Course. Those two, Fujikawa and Kevin Hayashi, the 2006 Aloha Section Player of the Year, will play in the 2007 Sony Open.

Mariano and Chin shot 71, as did Ishii, who hit the ball almost flawlessly all day but couldn't make a meaningful putt until his final two holes. He sank a 5-footer for birdie on the 18th to get into the playoff, and an 8-footer for an improbable bogey on the first playoff hole.

It was not enough.

Ishii, to the astonishment of almost everyone, pulled his drive deep into the trees on the playoff hole (351-yard, par-4 No. 1). A search party of about a dozen could not find the ball for the Hawai'i Golf Hall of Famer, who won the 1990 Hawaiian Open.

Ishii went back to the tee, launched his third shot just behind Mariano's in the fairway, knocked his approach shot close and drained the bogey putt.

After the long delay Chin, whose drive stopped in the right rough, punched his second shot near the fringe and left his chip 15 feet short. Mariano reached the green in regulation, but ran his birdie putt 2 feet past.

Chin, still angry at his poor chip, barely took time to line up his putt. But he smacked it right into the heart of the hole to salvage par and cut Ishii's chances from slim to almost none.

"That," Chin said, "was the first putt I made all day."

After Ishii made his bogey putt, Mariano took a long look at the longest 2-foot putt he had ever seen.

"That was one of the scariest things I've done in my life," Mariano said. "I just tried to hit it into the center of the cup, not mess around with it. ... I think it was divine intervention."

He willed it in and Hawai'i's most prominent player was left with one last chance to get into the tournament that no golfer knows better the Jan. 8 Open Qualifier at Makaha Resort. Four spots will be up for grabs with a limited field of 50 going against PGA and Nationwide Tour members not directly exempt into the Sony Open.

Mariano, 47, was the youngest in the playoff. He immediately called qualifying the highlight of his professional golf life. He pointed to the 15th as his key. After dropping back to even-par with bogeys on the previous two holes, Mariano holed out from the bunker on the 15th for birdie to help him reach the playoff.

Chin chipped in for eagle on the fourth hole but was back to even after birdies on the 14th and 15th. A birdie on the par-5 18th got him to the playoff.

He had qualified once before, for what was then the Hawaiian Open, in 1996. "I haven't been playing very well lately," said Chin, barely 50, "so this was fun."

Ishii, 51, could only congratulate them and shrug. He missed seven birdie putts from within 12 feet and even his tenacity ultimately could not make up for that. He is hitting the ball longer, and "with less effort" than he did when he won at Waialae back in 1990, but putting is the great equalizer.

He points to it as the reason the younger players had the best scores yesterday. Honoka'a senior Sean Maekawa shot the second-best score, a 69, and Kaimuki junior Chan Kim (73) was next among the amateurs, beating all but seven pros. Kim, Maekawa and Fujikawa finished 1-2-3 at this year's state high school championship.

"Their putting is better," Ishii said. "Their putting is more aggressive and they're longer than us, too. You've got to birdie the par-5's here and I didn't do that."

Fujikawa birdied three of the four, chipped in once and collected seven birdies in all. "I've been working on my putting, putting, putting, putting," he said with a grin.

Fujikawa was the youngest ever to qualify for the U.S. Open this year. Now he is his own coach "just me, my mom and the video camera" and not intimidated.

"The Open really opened my eyes to what my game needs to be like compared to their game," he said. "I think that's really going to help me in the Sony."

Punahou senior Michelle Wie and Punahou graduate Parker McLachlin were given exemptions by Sony Open organizers. Castle graduate Dean Wilson is in after finishing 22nd on this year's PGA Tour money list.

PROFESSIONALS

71-David Chin (35-36); Abe Mariano (35-36); David Ishii (35-36). 72-Jack Baker (34-38); Kevin Carll (35-37); Lance Taketa (35-37); 73-Jason Deigert (36-37). 74-Dave Eichelberger (38-36). 75-Ron Castillo, Jr. (37-38); Kristopher Kitt (37-38); Clark Miyazaki (37-38); Matt Pakkala (37-38). 76-Shane Abe (36-40); Andrew Feldman (36-40). 77-David Braxton (39-38); Michael Castillo (37-40); Dan Chickering (38-39); Kyle Herzberg (37-40); Ben Hongo (38-39). 78-Joey Castillo (36-42); Mike Iyoki (39-39). 79-Rodney Acia (38-41); Brad Bowen (37-42); Ty Otake (36-43); Darren Sayre (39-40). 80-Paul Ito (39-41); Kevin Kashiwai (41-39); John Ramelb (39-41).

AMATEURS

67-Tadd Fujikawa (33-34). 69-Sean Maekawa (34-35). 73-Chan Kim (36-37). 75-Alvin Okada, Jr. (38-37); Pierre-Henri Soero (36-39). 76-Jonathan Ota (38-38); Kevin Shimomura (37-39); Craig Uyehara (36-40). 77-Gary Kong (36-41); Brandan Kop (39-38). 78-Shannon Tanoue (38-40). 86-Henry Park (42-44).

Reach Ann Miller at amiller@honoluluadvertiser.com.