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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, February 20, 2010

Texas A&M, UNLV tie for Burns title

By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer

Defending champion Texas A&M, ranked fifth nationally, shared this year's John A. Burns Intercollegiate title with No. 23 UNLV yesterday.

Both teams played Leilehua in 28-under-par 836 for three days. Hawai'i (302-892) was 13th, followed by Hawai'i Pacific (305-905) and BYU-Hawai'i (309-922).

A&M's Andrea Pavan closed with 7-under 65 to win medalist honors at 204. Walk-on freshman Cory Oride led the 'Bows, shooting 77-217.

It was a typical finish for the Rainbows, who have never won a WAC team championship and rarely threaten the country's ranked teams. Hawai'i's collegiate golf highlights usually involve an individual. Brandan Kop was the 1981 WAC champion and Mike Pavao captured the conference title 15 years later.

Since then, only Pierre-Henri Soero and Jarett Hamamoto have come close, Hamamoto falling in a playoff four years ago. There have been other all-WAC golfers, and Matt Kodama was All-America honorable mention in 2004, when he earned a slot at NCAA Regionals.

As a team, Hawai'i's late charge at the 2007 title it came up one shot short of Nevada was by far its best league showing.

Kop calls the mediocre history a result of a couple "Catch-22" situations. First, "If you're not a well-known program you can't get good players, but if you don't get the good players you are not well-known," he said. Also, the recent exposure Hawai'i juniors have received has enhanced their opportunities to go away.

Ronn Miyashiro, named UH coach in 1998 after his senior year with the Rainbows, adds isolation, budget constraints and the lack of a home course to the list. But while the 'Bows' history might be forgettable, their presence in Hawai'i's golf world is undeniable.

UH sophomore TJ Kua is just the latest Rainbow to win the Mānoa Cup, the state's legendary amateur match-play championship. Four years ago, former 'Bow Jonathan Ota became one of the oldest. Greg Meyer is still successfully navigating Japan's professional tour.

Kop is one of the state's largest golf equipment distributors. Curtis Kono is greens superintendent at Oahu Country Club and Norman Ganin-Asao head pro at Olomana Golf Links. Les Tamashiro just retired as Hawai'i's Titleist representative. Guy Yamamoto has Mānoa Cup and national Public Links championships to his name.

"I was fortunate to play for UH," Tamashiro said. "I wasn't a premier golfer, didn't win a lot of amateur tournaments, but it gave me a chance to be recognized in the golf industry. It set me up for a very successful career. It's the same for guys like Brandan and Curtis, Scott Head and Clark Miyazaki. A list would be endless, I think the program let us be recognized later on in life."