Moanalua's Merkle, Ota win OIA titles
|Photo gallery: OIA golf championship|
By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Wes Nakama
MAKAHA — Moanalua nearly swept through the O'ahu Interscholastic Association golf championships yesterday, winning boys and girls individual titles and the boys team crown at Makaha Resort & Golf Club.
Only a girls team title by 'Aiea prevented a clean sweep for Na Menehune.
Senior Kristina Merkle repeated as girls champ with a two-stroke victory over Mililani's Kristen Sawada, and sophomore Tyler Ota won the boys crown by three strokes over Campbell's Rudy Cabalar.
"I'm so happy," said Merkle, the defending state champ and a former two-time Jennie K. Wilson Invitational winner. "It's my senior year, so it feels good to win it."
Merkle shot a 6-over-par 77 in Monday's first round and trailed teammate Tiffany Oda by two strokes entering yesterday's second round, which she started with three straight bogeys.
"I was already two shots behind (before the round) and my first three holes today really didn't boost my confidence," Merkle said. "Nothing wanted to work for me. But I just had to calm myself down."
She recovered to play 1-over on the final six holes of the front nine, going out at 4-over 39. Merkle then played the back at 1-over 37 to finish with a 5-over 76.
"I didn't play well yesterday, but knowing that this is golf, anything can happen," said Merkle, who will attend the University of Tulsa next season on a golf scholarship.
Sawada recovered from an 82 on Monday to card a 73 yesterday for second place. Mililani's Maryssa Shigesato finished third at 77-80—157, Pearl City's Sara Koizumi took fourth at 78-82—160 and 'Aiea's Christine Kobashikawa finished fifth at 78-83—161.
Ota won the boys title despite finishing tied for ninth in the season standings with an average score of 76. He shot a 2-over 73 in Monday's first round to tie Calabar for first place and carded an even-par 71 yesterday.
"I played a practice round here on Sunday and it wasn't looking so well," said Ota, who finished 11th at last year's OIA championships. "I shocked myself on the first day. Today my ball-striking wasn't as good, but my short game saved me."
That included a clutch save on the par-3 17th hole, when Ota pulled his tee shot into the left bunker.
"It was a hard lie, but I got up and down," Ota said. "That gave me confidence going into 18."
He saved par again on the final hole to clinch the title.
Moanalua coach Randy Yadao said Ota's victory did not surprise him.
"I always knew he was capable; I think the only reason he finished (tied for ninth) in the regular season is because he played basketball, so he was a little rusty," Yadao said. "He wasn't playing as much golf (in the winter), but further in the season he got his touch back and picked up his short game."
Calabar shot a 74 to finish second, Mililani's Jonah Fonacier was third at 77-71—148, McKinley's Wen Hao Luo (75-74—149) took fourth and 'Aiea's Ryan Kuroiwa (75-75—150) claimed fifth place.
'Aiea won its first girls team title since 2002 with a two-day, three-player score of 501. Moanalua was second at 513 and Mililani finished third with 549.
Na Menehune took the boys team title for the second time in three years with a two-day, four-player score of 605. Mililani (630) was second and Kahuku (634) third.
The state tournaments will be at Royal Ka'anapali Golf Course next month.
Reach Wes Nakama at firstname.lastname@example.org.