Kono sets record in victory
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By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Wes Nakama
KAHUKU — Punahou sophomore Stephanie Kono set yet another record and Moanalua became the first O'ahu Interscholastic Association school to win a team title yesterday at the David S. Ishii Foundation/HHSAA Girls Golf Championships.
Kono, who shot an 8-under-par 64 on Tuesday to set a tournament and Turtle Bay Fazio Course record, carded an even-par 72 yesterday to win the individual title with a record two-day score of 8-under 136. That broke the previous record set in 2003 by Hilo's Kira-Ann Murashige (71-69—140) at Waikoloa Beach.
Moanalua freshman Kristina Merkle, who won the prestigious Jennie K. Wilson Invitational on Sunday, finished second at 71—143, and Kaua'i junior Miki Ueoka took third at 71—147. Kono began the day with a six-stroke lead.
"It feels great," said Kono, who finished fifth last year after shooting 80-78—156 at The Dunes at Maui Lani. "It's good to finally win and meet my expectations."
Kono's record round on Tuesday started with a sizzling 6-under 30 on the back nine, but she got out of the gates slowly yesterday, going 3-over on the first six holes after again teeing off on No. 10. She made the turn at 2-over 38.
"I started out bad," Kono said. "I just didn't get off to a good start, but I picked it up (on the second nine)."
She came in with a 2-under 34 on the front nine, including a tap-in birdie on No. 9.
"I knew what I had to do to win the individual title, but I didn't know what the other scores were and I didn't know what I was supposed to shoot for us to win the team (crown)," Kono said. "I still wanted to shoot well to help the team."
As it turned out, she would have needed a 70 or below for the Buffanblu to have had a chance. Punahou began the day with a three-player score of 224, one stroke ahead of Moanalua.
But along with Merkle's 71 — tied with Ueoka for the day's low round — Na Menehune also got a 76 from Jaclyn Hilea and a 78 from Iris Ocariza for a two-day score of 451. In addition to Kono's 72, the Buffanblu got a 77 from Katie Sisler and an 80 from Anna Jang to finish at 229—453.
"We actually prayed this morning that we would win it," Merkle said. "It feels really good; I'm proud that we won it."
Merkle, who was playing in the final group with Kono and Leilehua senior Britney Choy, said she did not know the team scoring situation as the round progressed but was hopeful after watching Kono's early struggles.
"But she picked it up on the back," Merkle said. "I just tried to be at my best and shoot low for the team, and it turns out all my teammates played wonderful."
Moanalua coach Josh Suapaia said he felt fortunate his team was only one stroke behind after Kono's 64 on Tuesday.
"I was optimistic for today, because I knew our top three could shoot low if they just put their normal game together," Suapaia said. "But you also had to expect Stephanie was going to have another low round, too. That 64 was unbelievable."
Suapaia said the joy of Na Menehune's victory was shared by others.
"Every coach in the OIA told us, 'Bring it home!' " Suapaia said. "It feels great, because the girls worked hard all year."
For Merkle, it capped a thrilling but exhausting week.
"I'm really happy," she said. "It's been tiring, but I've enjoyed every moment."
Reach Wes Nakama at email@example.com.