Merkle shoots to 2nd state golf title in row
By Christie Wilson
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Christie Wilson
KA'ANAPALI, Maui — Solid putting and steady play allowed Moanalua's Kristina Merkle to defend her state title yesterday in the David S. Ishii Foundation/HHSAA Girls Golf Championships at the Royal Ka'anapali Golf Resort.
Merkle posted two birdies and three bogeys en route to a second-round 1-over-par 72. Her two-round total of 145 put her five strokes ahead of sophomore Kelli Oride of Kaua'i, who finished 76—150. Baldwin sophomore Cassy Isagawa was third at 77—151.
Punahou captured its third straight team title with a two-round total of 469. Baldwin was second with 474, one stroke better than Waiakea.
Merkle had won her first state high school crown last year by overcoming a one-shot deficit in the first round. The O'ahu Interscholastic Association champion entered yesterday's final round with a slim one-shot advantage over Oride, Isagawa and Punahou's Alina Ching, and she wasn't taking her lead for granted.
"I wasn't really confident going into the second round. I was really nervous. I had a talk with my dad and he told me to just play my game," Merkle said.
The pep talk — and two hours at the putting green and driving range following Tuesday's first round — steadied Merkle, as she parred the first four holes before bogeying the par-4 fifth.
Merkle reclaimed the stroke on the very next hole after her second shot carried over the green at the par-5 sixth. She chipped to within 7 feet of the hole and buried the putt for a birdie.
Although Merkle went on to bogey the 10th hole, her lead was never in danger, and she sealed the deal on the par-3 15th, sinking another 7-footer for birdie.
Her title secure, Merkle laid up short of the green on her second shot at the par-4 18th hole, and finished with a bogey.
Oride, playing in the group ahead of Merkle, made four bogeys, a double bogey and a birdie, finishing at 5-over. Isagawa, who was grouped with Merkle, started with a birdie on the par-5 first hole, but couldn't sustain the momentum to finish 6-over for the day.
Merkle, who is bound for the University of Tulsa, said winning a second state title was "awesome" but more difficult than the first one. "It was a lot more pressure because it's my senior year, and the young players like Cassy are getting a lot better. It's really amazing," she said.
Merkle now sets her sights on next week's Jennie K. Wilson Invitational, a tournament she has won twice.
Punahou's effort was led by Ching and Cyd Okino. Ching shot 78—152 to finish fourth while Okino had 80—157 to tie for sixth.
Other team members were Michelle Condry and Anna Jang.
Ching, Okino and Condry are sophomores, further proof that a wave of younger golfers is on the rise, according to Punahou coach Ed Kageyama.
"The state junior golf program is producing some really good kids and they're playing year-round," he said. "There's tough competition."
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