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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, April 18, 2010

Hou leads Rainbows into WAC tournament

 •  Wilson catches fire early at Mid-Pacific

By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Hawai'i's Corie Hou, a senior from Australia, had finished fourth twice in the Western Athletic Conference Championships, which starts tomorrow.

University of Hawai'i photo

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When Corie Hou was a University of Hawai'i freshman, her new friends on the Rainbow Wahine golf team watched with pride as they moved onto the first page of the national rankings, eventually peaking at No. 39. The 'Bows just missed winning the Western Athletic Conference championship and qualified for their first and still only NCAA regional.

In stark contrast to her awed teammates, Hou wondered out loud why Hawai'i wasn't in the Top 25.

Coming out of anyone else's mouth, it would have sounded silly for a program rarely in contention for titles. But coming from Hou, so full of enthusiasm and in-your-face honesty and speaking with that startling Australian accent it sounded simple and profound.

Three years later, as Hou heads to her final WAC Championship beginning tomorrow in Mesa, Ariz., she remains the team's most compelling character. For the past two seasons, she has also been the Rainbow Wahine's finest golfer, learning to manage her game and never making excuses in a sport that begs for them.

Hou has led Hawai'i in 12 tournaments the past two years and her stroke average of 76 is two shots lower than any teammate. She has 20 Top-30 finishes in her career, including five top fives. Hou has been particularly good at the WAC Championship, taking fourth her first two years. She was all-WAC second team last season.

After she graduates next month in finance, she plans to work on her game particularly her putting back in Sydney, then go to the Ladies European Tour Q-School in December. The LET now has more events than the LPGA and plays in a different country practically every week, starting with Australia.

Hou loves traveling so much "not even Fresno" could change her mind. The girl who started with cut-down clubs at age 10 and "hasn't grown much since" applied all over the U.S. for college. Former UH coach Ashley Biffle gave her an offer she "really couldn't refuse," in the place she most wanted to be.

Rainbow Wahine golf has not been the same since. Hou was a crucial part of that NCAA-regional team, led by WAC Player of the Year Dale Gammie, as a freshman. She also caddied for teammate Xyra Suyetsugu when she won the 2008 Jennie K. and finished fourth at the Hawai'i women's major last year.

After graduation, Hou plans to rest her sore knees before training fulltime for Q-School and is focused on regaining the "attack" attitude that served her so well early in her career, but has taken a hiatus along with her precious putting.

"When I first came here I had that no-fear attitude when it came to golf," Hou said. "I'm trying to get that back because that's when I play best. I lost it for about two years. When other players started talking about issues I don't want to hit it there, I don't want to do this I started thinking I don't want to hit it there. It messes up your mind a little. When I play my best is when I attack."

UH coach Lori Castillo has little doubt that Hou's swagger will come back.

"I have never seen anyone who knows how to get from point A to point B better than Corie," Castillo said. "It's a good gift to have."

Hawai'i's obvious goal in Arizona is to win the WAC and advance to another regional. A more realistic goal, in a conference with 40th-ranked San Jose State and 54th-ranked Idaho, is to finish top three.

"I have a very young team," Castillo says. "Only one person on the team is pretty mature with her game and that would be Corie. The others are freshmen or young golfers. I see so much good progress, but that is not translating to score right now.

"We have to put it together where three players are shooting close to par and not just two. Everyone on the team is capable of shooting close to par. They've all proved it. They just have to try and work through the process."