5 advance to Open sectionals
By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Ann Miller
KAPOLEI — Conditions combined to transform a U.S. Women's Open local qualifier with favorable odds into survival of the fittest at Ko Olina Golf Club yesterday. No surprise, the fittest were ages 16 and 17.
Punahou sophomore Stephanie Kono and Kaua'i High junior Miki Ueoka benefited from the bounce of a successful state high school championship last week to share medalist honors. Both shot 2-over-par 74 at a Ko Olina course that was so windy the water in the 18th-hole waterfall was shooting up.
Kono, who won the state high school title by seven shots, and Ueoka, who catapulted into third with a scorching final-round 71, advance to Hawai'i's 36-hole sectional qualifier. That will be June 13 at Ko Olina, with the medalist earning a spot in the U.S. Women's Open, June 29 to July 2 at Newport Country Club in Newport, R.I.
Kono dropped a 20-foot birdie on the first hole, bogeyed the next two and was 2-over at the turn. She was even on the back.
"I didn't hit too many good shots but I managed to make a lot of pars," said Kono, who had 30 putts. "I played a lot better last week, but we played shorter tees so it was a lot different."
Ueoka, three-time Kaua'i Interscholastic Federation champion, played the par-5s in 3-under but had three bogeys and a double.
"I was hitting pretty solid and my putts were going in," she said, "which was a surprise."
Heidi Chua (76), Dawn Kaneshiro (76) and Lori Planos (77) also advance. One of every five entrants usually earn a sectional spot. Those odds improved yesterday when the field of 18 had three withdrawals.
Chua, a professional from the Philippines, will play the California sectional — one of six across the country. Next week, she is in her first men's professional event — the Asian Tour's Philippine Open.
"They're trying to make me a Michelle Wie," joked Chua, 29, who played the last two years on the Futures Tour.
Kaneshiro, the 1998 Hawai'i State Women's Stroke Play Champion, is now a pro at Kapalua. Armed with three birdies, she had a shot at medalist going into 18. Instead, she four-putted the two-tiered green for triple-bogey.
"The pins were not real straight-forward. That added an element of difficulty," said Kevin Ralbovsky, Kono's coach and caddie. "When you tuck the pins and it's windy and the greens are fast ... it's almost a guarantee that you will see higher scores."
Planos works in real estate on Maui. She dominated Hawai'i women's golf 20 years ago and won the 1979 and '80 U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links and 1978 U.S. Girls Junior.
Those titles remain high on Kono's and Ueoka's list of goals, right after qualifying for the U.S. Women's Open.
This is Kono's fifth attempt. It will be her second sectional. She desperately wants to get into the Open for the exemptions it would provide this summer and, especially, the experience.
"It would be my first professional event and I just want to experience the whole thing," Kono said. "I think it would be really fun."
This is Ueoka's third try. "I really want to try and make it," Ueoka said. "It would just be on a different level, more than I've ever played before."
Cyd Okino, 12, earned medalist honors at Tuesday's U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links qualifier on Kaua'i. Okino shot 77 at Wailua to advance to the national tournament in Pueblo, Colo., next month. Lihue's Kelli Oride is the alternate after shooting 78.
Former Rainbow Wahine golfer Cindy Rarick was an alternate at the U.S. Women's Open local qualifier Monday in Illinois. Hawai'i's Kimberly Kim and Ayaka Kaneko play the Arizona local Monday in Phoenix.
Reach Ann Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.