State Amateur first for Chan to defend Holes in One
PGA Tour FedEx Cup Leaders
Diverse field tees off at Pearl
By Bill Kwon
It's rare that a golfer gets to defend two state titles in one year. Then again, everything about the golfing career of Lorens Chan, a 15-year-old 'Iolani School sophomore, has been exceptional, so that rarity shouldn't come as a surprise.
Chan's first state title defense starts today at the Pearl Country Club in the Hawai'i State Amateur Stroke Play Championship, which he won by eight strokes as the youngest winner in its 46-year history. He did it with a tournament-record score of 10-under-par (206) despite the four-day event being shortened to 54 holes because of rain.
The second state title Chan will defend comes in May in the Hawai'i State Boys High School Championships at Turtle Bay. He's also that tournament's youngest champion, becoming the first freshman to win that event last year at Royal Kā'anapali, Maui.
Chan would like nothing better than to win them again because his golf instructor, David Ishii, is closely linked to both events. Ishii is director of golf at the Pearl Country Club, host site of the State Amateur, and he sponsors the state boys and girls high school championships.
"It's an honor being a defending champion. It's good and bad in a way, though," says Chan. "You do have some pressure to play good. If you don't win, at least top tier; not playing junk. It's good that you know that you can win, so you kind of build a little confidence. Hopefully, I can use that for this week."
Chan feels he was lucky to win last year. Lucky even to play at all. After getting the go-ahead from his school's athletic director and Glenn Inouye, his golf team coach, Chan asked for and got an exemption from the Interscholastic League of Honolulu to play in the State Amateur because it conflicted with the league's outside participation rule, which forbids anyone to compete in another tournament if there's a scheduled league event that week.
"A lot of high schoolers wanted to play last year," said Chan, who was the only one to ask for an exemption. Two of his ILH peers, Punahou's Bradley Shigezawa and Kamehameha's Alika Bell, were among those disappointed. They're getting the chance this year.
"There's no conflict this year. I'm sure they took this tournament into consideration," said Chan, who'll be facing Shigezawa and Bell this week in what shapes up to be a precursor to a likely showdown in the state championship in May.
There's the State Amateur defense to worry about first, says Chan, when asked if he has visions of winning four state high school titles in a row. Nobody's even won three straight, but Chan can join Ralden Chang, Troy Tamiya, Kalani Kiaaina and Jarett Hamamoto as the only back-to-back boys champions.
"We'll have to see each year how it's going to work. We'll try for two in a row," Chan said. "It's not just about winning but playing my best. Whatever happens, happens. If you play good but some guy plays better, you can't do anything about it."
Chan's feat as the first freshman to win the state boys title stunned a lot of local golf fans.
"It wasn't a surprise to us," said Inouye, who won the 1968 title playing for 'Iolani. "We expect him to do well again this year. He's a lot stronger and more mature. Physically, he's a lot stronger. He doesn't look it (at 5 feet 7, 145 pounds). But when he hits the ball it makes a different sound."
It's not just a matter of physical strength, according to Chan.
"I think I'm making smarter decisions on a course and using my head a little more. The mental game's really tough. The human mind just naturally gets on the negative side, so you've got to keep working on trying to think positive all the time."
His psych guru is Chris McLachlin, father of PGA Touring pro Parker McLachlin.
"I see him every so often and it's helped a lot in terms of staying positive and believing that you can do anything," said Chan.
As for his golf guru, it's Ishii.
"Mainly, we're working on controlling my ball — like ball flight, trajectory, distance and kind of working the ball. He's really good in that he helps you understand your swing."
The State Amateur is the first local appearance this year for Chan, who won four tournaments in 2009. He missed last month's Hawai'i Pearl Open because he played in a major American Junior Golf Association tournament in Woodlands, Texas. In the 40-degree weather, he finished in a disappointing tie for 46th among the top 78 junior boys who were invited.
"I was hoping to do better, but was inexperienced playing in the cold and with the top players in the nation," said Chan, who opened with a par 72 but couldn't break 80 the next two days. He's going to Arizona in April for another AJGA event.
But first things first for Chan. And that's state title defense No. 1 this week.
Bill Kwon can be reached at email@example.com