Pair leading state open
• Photo gallery: Hawaii State Golf Day 1
By Bill Kwon
Special to The Advertiser
KAHUKU — What is it about Hawai'i that seems to bring out the best in Jesse Mueller?
He had that same thought after yesterday's 6-under-par 66 at the Palmer Course to share the first-round lead of the Turtle Bay Resort Hawai'i State Open with Maui pro David Havens.
"This is my favorite place to play golf. I don't know what it is, but if it's the water, I want to bottle it and take it everywhere," said Mueller, who won the Hawai'i Pearl Open in February with a tournament record-tying 54-hole score of 19-under par.
"I had no bogeys, which was nice," said the 26-year-old pro from Mesa, Ariz., who played in five Nationwide tournaments this year. "I only missed two greens, played pretty solid the whole day. Everything was in control."
Mueller made two great par saves at the last two holes to save his bogey-free round.
"(At) 17 I had to get up and down from over the green. I hit my tee shot into the water at 18 and made par. That was nice. I didn't want to finish with a bogey."
Havens also turned in a bogey-free round, much to his surprise, because he hadn't played in an event since he won the 2008 Bhutan Open when he spent six months there to help start up a junior golf program.
"Since then, it's just the games we play around Maui," said Havens, 35, an assistant pro at Ka'anapali and Kapalua before that.
"Part of me is shocked that I played this well. It's kinda like (the movie) 'Tin Cup,' " he said, laughing. "Today is about as good a day as I've ever had with a putter. I played everything front lip and let the hole get in the way."
Like Mueller, Havens also finished par-par at the last two holes, lipping 8-foot birdie putts at the par-4 17th and the par-5 finishing hole.
"But I couldn't be happier. It gives me a lot of good feelings going into tomorrow," he said.
Closest to the co-leaders is Steve Watanabe, a 31-year-old Northern California PGA Section pro, who's one shot behind at 67 that included an eagle-3 at the third hole. He shot 6-under 30 on the front nine despite bogeying the first hole.
Amateur Spencer Shishido and Aloha Section PGA player of the year Kevin Hayashi, were next at 68. Tied at 69 were PGA Tour professional Dean Wilson, Charlie Holland, a Dallas amateur, and local collegians Sean Maekawa (Oregon) and David Fink (Oregon State).
Sam Cyr, a two-time NAIA champion from Maui, finished birdie-eagle to be at 2-under 70 with Hans Hussey and Tony Finau, who along with his brother, Gipper, represent the Turtle Bay Resort.
Tadd Fujikawa shot a 71 after birdieing two of his first three holes.
"I did OK. Hit a lot of good putts but they just didn't go in. But that's golf," Fujikawa said. "I need to go out there and shoot a good number tomorrow and put myself in a position to win."
Playing against the men in the open flight, LPGA pro Katie Futcher shot a 74, the same as David Ishii.
"It was a great challenge. Actually, I hit the ball pretty well from tee to green. I had four three putts and shot 74, so I'm pretty pleased with the way I hit the ball," Futcher said.
They play the 7,143-yard Palmer Course again today and finish up tomorrow at the shorter (by around 500 yards) Fazio Course.
Makena pro Kirk Nelson's 68 led the senior flight with Kaua'i pros Craig Sasada and Glenn Tamagawa a stroke back. It's the first senior event for Nelson, who turned 50 three days ago.
"Too many good young kids," said Nelson, who opened with nine straight pars in playing the back nine first at the Fazio Course.
Bidding to win for an unprecedented fourth straight year, Punahou junior Cyd Okino shot a 2-under-par 70 at the Fazio Course to lead the women's flight by one stroke over Kellie Oride. Both were the only two in the 27-player field to better par.
Okino shook off bogeys at 12, 13, and 14 in starting on the back nine and made the turn at even-par.
"I hope to get my putting going," she said. "My putting was awesome today. It totally saved my butt."
Katie Kemptner, who gained her 2010 LPGA playing card by finishing tied for second in Q-School, shot a 75.
Bill Kwon can be reached at email@example.com.