Wilson, Kim rise to the top in 2006
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By Bill Kwon
By Bill Kwon
For the first time since 2003 when she won the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links at the age of 13 to become the youngest winner of a USGA event, Michelle Wie isn't the golf story of the year locally.
It took some doing to unseat the teenage phenom.
After all, in her first year as a professional, Wie earned $718,343 in just eight women's events, good for 14th place on the 2006 LPGA money list had she been a member. That's not counting more than $1 million in endorsements for playing against the men in Asia, where she became the first female to make the cut in an Asian Tour event, the SK Telcom Open.
The Punahou School senior, who's Stanford-bound, posted five top-5 finishes, including a tie for fifth in the LPGA McDonald's Championship and ties for third in two other majors, the Kraft Nabisco Championship and the U.S. Women's Open.
In any other year it would have been good enough to be the top golf story.
However, 2006 wasn't just any other year. It turned out to be the greatest year in the history of Hawai'i golf.
The one day that captured the magic of 2006 was Aug. 13.
On that Sunday, in a span of a few hours, Hawai'i's Dean Wilson and Kimberly Kim made national headlines in the world of golf.
Wilson won The International for his first PGA victory and the first by a Hawai'i golfer in a tour event played on the Mainland.
"I was this close to not going," Wilson told friends at a get-together Tuesday night at Waialae Country Club.
Kim followed up with a victory in the U.S. Women's Amateur, becoming at 14 years and 11 months the youngest champion in the 106-year history of the USGA event.
On that greatest day in local golf, one that surely will be difficult to surpass, it was Hawai'i 2, the World 0.
But Wilson and Kim weren't one-day wonders during the year.
Wilson, a 37-year-old Kane'ohe native, recorded five other top-10 finishes to earn $2,509,857 and place 22nd on the PGA Tour money list. That got him into his first Masters next April. He'll also be playing for the first time in the Mercedes-Benz Championship at Kapalua, Maui, next week.
Kim, a Big Island native who now lives in Arizona, had as remarkable a year as Wilson.
Besides winning the U.S. Women's Amateur, Kim finished runner-up in the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links, was the youngest player to make the cut in this year's U.S. Women's Open and represented USA in the Women's World Amateur Team Championship in South Africa.
Wilson and Kim, in that order, were definitely the top two local golf stories of the year.
The rest of the top-10 stories of a memorable year:
No. 3 Kaua'i's Casey Watabu winning the U.S. Men's Amateur Public Links in Bremerton, Wash. He'll be joining Wilson at Augusta National. Only three other Isle golfers have ever played in the Masters David Ishii, Guy Yamamoto and Stan Souza.
No. 4 Michelle Wie, The reason why? Just follow the money.
No. 5 Tadd Fujikawa, 15, becoming the youngest player to qualify for the U.S. Open in its 106-year history. He wowed the fans at Winged Foot, who called the 5-foot-1 youngster, "The Big Kahuna." Fujikawa missed the cut, but so did Tiger Woods. Locally, Fujikawa won three amateur events against older competition and qualified for the Sony Open in Hawai'i next month.
No. 6 Parker McLachlin surviving Q-School to earn a PGA Tour playing card for the 2007 season. He moves up from the Nationwide Tour where he finished 29th on the money list with $176,882 this year.
No. 7 Lorens Chan for clearly being Hawai'i's winningest golfer in 2006. The 'Iolani School seventh-grader just returned from Florida where he successfully defending his boys' 12 title in the Doral-Publinx Junior Classic. He also won the U.S. Kids championship at Pinehurst, N.C., giving him five national titles in the last two years. Locally, Chan won six statewide junior golf tournaments, including the season-ending HSJGA Tournament of Champions.
No. 8 Chan Kim winning the state boys' high school championship and the Army Invitational. The Kaimuki High School junior also shared the O'ahu Interscholastic Association boys' title with Fujikawa. They also teamed to win the Hawai'i Public Links Association Four-Ball championship.
No. 9 Punahou School's Stephanie Kono capturing her second straight Interscholastic League of Honolulu girls' title, shooting a record 64 to win the state crown, qualifying for the U.S. Women's Amateur and joining Kimberly and Tadd as Hawai'i players in the AJGA Canon Cup.
No. 10 Cyd Okino erasing Michelle Wie's record by two months as the youngest female winner in the Prince Resorts Hawai'i State Open. Okino did it 13 days before her 13th birthday.
Also worthy of mention:
Speaking of streaks: Tiger Woods going 7 for 7 in his last seven the PGA Grand Slam appearances. Or Stuart Appleby winning the Mercedes Championships for the third straight year.
The one bummer of the year: PGA of America moving the PGA Grand Slam to Bermuda, ending a 13-year run at the Po'ipu Bay Golf Course on Kaua'i.