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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, February 12, 2006

GOLF
Barnes two shots clear in Hawai'i Pearl Open

By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer

'AIEA It has been love at first sight for Andy Barnes and Pearl Country Club. Those chasing him going into this morning's final round of the Hawai'i Pearl Open have grown to love it over time.

Barnes, 28 and a University of Arizona graduate living in Scottsdale, fired off a 7-under-par 65 yesterday. His 12-under total of 132 gives him a two-shot lead in his Pearl debut. Japan golf tour pros Tomohiro Maruyama, 48, and David Ishii, 50, who is Pearl's director of golf, also had 65s on a calm, often overcast day that produced 24 rounds in the 60s.

Maruyama, whose best Pearl finish in more than 10 appearances was second in 1999, starts alone in second this morning. Don Berry, the 43-year-old head pro at Edinburgh USA Golf Club in Minnesota, is third at 67-135. He finished third here the last two years.

Ishii is tied at 136 with four-time Pearl champion Gregory Meyer (70), who used to work at PCC, and Dave Eichelberger (67), who commutes to his Champions Tour stops from Honolulu. Yuki Ito, a high school senior from Japan, also shares fourth and is in awe of his company as he attempts to defend last year's low amateur title. "To be surrounded by a group of such wonderful players is an honor," Ito said through an interpreter.

For Barnes, going low was no big deal. Chasing a tournament record in his first competitive event since last year's PGA Tour Qualifying School is the surprise.

"This course just fits my eye," said Barnes, whose younger brother Ricky was the 2002 U.S. Amateur champion. "I've been driving it pretty good. I've hit driver on every hole except for (No.) 8 so I've just tried to stay aggressive. It's my first tournament of the year so I didn't know what to expect. I figure there's no better way than to just hit drivers everywhere and see where my game is at."

Ishii has worked for Pearl more than half his life. His 65 was a very big deal.

"This is the best score I shot in maybe five, six years anywhere. Usually if I shoot under par it's like one or two ... cannot make birdies," Ishii said. "But today, it was the first time I started making birdies without making bogeys."

He has won here six times and was low amateur in the inaugural 1979 tournament. But the last win was 15 years ago a year after his memorable Hawaiian Open championship. Ishii is now in transition into his senior career after 14 wins in Japan. Two weeks ago he made his Champions Tour debut and finished 29th at the Turtle Bay Championship.

Ishii played the back nine first, going 2-under with a chip-in on 16 and two-putt birdie at 17. A 6-footer for birdie at No. 1 gave him some confidence with his putter "it went where I thought I was aiming" and a 10-footer at No. 4 convinced him it was working. He played his final six holes in 4-under, drilling a 27-foot birdie putt on the final hole for emphasis.

Barnes had five birdies on the front. In two days he is 7-under on Pearl's par-5s and has as many bogeys two, both yesterday as eagles.

He heard about this tournament from Hawai'i's Parker McLachlin, who roomed with the Barnes brothers for a year in Arizona. Andy has been playing mini-tours and Nationwide events the past few years.

Hilo's Meyer, who plays with Ishii on the Japan tour, was 11-under for the tournament after 14 holes yesterday. He bogeyed three of the last four to fall behind Barnes, his playing partner.

Eichelberger, 62, finished 48th at Turtle Bay. It was memorable because it was his first tournament since September surgery for a ruptured disc in his back. This week is another opportunity to get "back" into shape for the rest of the senior season. He leaves tonight for Florida.

NOTES

The threat of thunderstorms this afternoon persuaded organizers to start off the first and 10th tees this morning in order to finish earlier. The first groups go out at 7:20, with the leaders starting off No. 1 at 9:20 and expected to finish by 2:30 p.m.

The cut came at 3-over 147. The low 15 amateurs also advance, so today's field will have 87 players. All four females in the 192-player field missed the cut.

Hawai'i pro Tommy Kim, who now lives in Las Vegas, won Thursday's Pro-Am. Kim and his amateur partners, Tsuneo Kuwabara, June Kuwabara, Garey Matsuyama and Elton Tanaka, shot 50-4999 in the modified scramble with two best balls recorded for the team score. A $4,000 donation was made to the Hawai'i chapter of American Red Cross.

Reach Ann Miller at amiller@honoluluadvertiser.com.