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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Kitamori getting back in the swing for Pacific

By Kalani Takase
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Valerie Kitamori

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Britney Yada

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Brad Lawson

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Abe Markowitz

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When Valerie Kitamori underwent wrist surgery last fall, she knew she wouldn't be able to swing a golf club for a while, but it didn't stop her from getting in some practice.

The Hilo native and Pacific (Ore.) junior instead turned her attention to her "worst" club: her putter.

"I couldn't compete in the fall tournaments because of the surgery, but I'd still be at all the meetings and practices and tournaments, having to sit on the sideline," said Kitamori, captain of the women's golf team. "That was really hard for me because I'd just watch everybody play and that made me want to play, but it also motivated me to take things slow and come back the right way.

"It gave me time to practice putting, which was the reason I shot high scores last year. I hate my putter, it gives me the most trouble, but after the fall I started to be able to read greens more, so I think it was a good thing overall."

Kitamori, a 2006 Waiākea graduate, has shown improvement in each season. As a freshman, she averaged 87.81 strokes per round and had six top-10 finishes. She was the Boxers' top finisher at the NCAA Division III Championships, tying for 60th place.

Last year, as a co-captain, Kitamori had a team-best 84.23 stroke average and placed in the top seven of all 10 tournaments she played. She won the Pacific Spring Invitational and finished second in two other tournaments.

After missing the fall season, Kitamori and her wrist slowly improved this spring.

"It's about 95 percent now," Kitamori said. "It's a little stiff when I start my round usually, but the pain is slowly going away and it's starting to feel more normal."

Kitamori's first full round after the surgery was the opening round of the Pacific Invitational on Feb. 27.

"Actually, it went well," said Kitamori, who shot an 85 that day. "That was my highest score last year, so it was nice to be around the same level that I was at."

She followed that with an 83 the next day and a pair of 82s at the Lewis-Clark State Invitational March 15-16.

"My scores have been slowly decreasing with the more tournaments that I've been playing," Kitamori said. "This past weekend was the seventh round that I've played and I feel like I'm still improving."

Kitamori shot rounds of 84 and 82 to finish in a three-way tie for fourth at the Pacific Lutheran Invitational Saturday and Sunday in Turnwater, Wash.

"I'm starting to get my strength back," said Kitamori, whose favorite club is her driver. "I'm getting the distance I used to have back."

Kitamori is one of three Waiākea graduates playing for Pacific, including senior Jasmine Ching (2005) and junior Tami Park (2006).

Being from Hilo, Kitamori said the trio is comfortable playing in the cold Pacific Northwest.

"We're pretty used to the rain," said Kitamori, who began playing at age seven.

The biology major never intended to play the sport collegiately, but decided to give it a try after a talk with Boxers coach Richard Warren.

"For me, it was more about getting an education and having the college experience, but (Warren) visited our school when we were in high school and he encouraged me to come out as a freshman to see what it was like," Kitamori said. "I always said that I wasn't going to continue golf (after high school), because I didn't think that I would have the time to go through the whole team thing again and my family always stressed school more than sports. But I'm really glad that he convinced me to play."

As Kitamori has matured at Pacific, so has her mental approach to the game.

"I think one of the biggest reasons for my improvement this year has been my course management," she said. "In Oregon, we go to play all different courses that we've never seen before, whereas in Hawai'i, you know all the courses and you play them all the time. Here, it's a new course and new tournament all the time, so I've had to learn how to assess risk and know where to miss to stay out of trouble.

"Another important thing is not getting too high or low during a round. I've been playing for a while now, so I see a lot of players' reactions and how they handle ups and downs," she said. "Some players get really hard on themselves or very emotional after a bad shot, but you have to learn to not let those things affect you."


• UCLA sophomore Stephanie Kono (Punahou '08 of Honolulu) tied for third with a 4-over 220 at the Betsy Rawls Longhorn Invitational last weekend in Austin, Texas. Kono was tied for the lead after 36 holes, but shot a final-day 78 to finish seven strokes back to medalist Sarah Zwartynski of Texas A&M. Tulsa freshman Kristina Merkle (Moanalua '09 of Honolulu) tied for 39th at 17-over 233 and New Mexico senior Britney Choy (Leilehua '06 of Wahiawā) finished tied for 43rd at 18-over 234. UCLA won the team competition by six strokes over runner-up Arizona.

• Portland State freshman Britney Yada (Waiākea '09 of Hilo) shot a final-round 73 yesterday to finish in a three-way tie for sixth at the 72-hole UC Irvine Anteater Invitational at Dove Canyon Country Club. Yada finished 10-over par 223 to finish nine strokes behind medalist Kayla Mortellaro of Idaho. Santa Clara junior Miki Ueoka (Kaua'i '07 of Līhu'e) tied for 14th with a 14-over 227 and her teammate, sophomore Tammy Surtees (Hawai'i Prep '08 of Waikoloa) shot 19-over 232 to tie for 24th. Cal State Northridge junior Ashlee Nagamine (La Pietra '07 of 'Aiea) tied for 46th at 26-over 239 and Oregon State sophomore Elyse Okada (Maui '08 of Kahului) tied for 61st at 31-over 244. Santa Clara senior Jamie Nonaka (Punahou '06 of Halē'iwa) shot 43-over 256 to tie for 76th.


• Gonzaga junior guard Tatriana Lorenzo (Kamehameha '06 of Wahiawā) played two minutes of a Sweet 16 loss to Xavier Saturday in Sacramento, but did not record any statistics. Gonzaga, which trailed 32-31 at halftime, finished 29-5.


• Northwestern's Paul Snieder (Punahou '08 of Honolulu) pitched four scoreless innings of relief to earn his second save of the season in a 9-7 win over Stetson on Saturday. Snieder also had a hit and scored two runs as the designated hitter. He leads the team with a .375 batting average and has a 2.55 ERA and 0-1 record as a pitcher. Teammate Michael Jahns (St. Anthony '08 of Kihei) is 2-2 and has an 8.66 ERA.

• Cal State Northridge junior left fielder Ridge Carpenter (Kalani '07 of Honolulu) went 6 for 12 with four RBIs and four runs scored in a three-game series against Sacramento State last weekend. He also drew four walks and stole two bases as the Matadors won two games.

• Southern Utah senior first baseman Bucky Aona (Punahou '06 of Makakilo) had an RBI and drew a walk in a 4-3 loss to Portland Saturday. Freshman infielder D.J. Andrade (Damien '09 of Waipahu) walked twice and scored both times, and sophomore right-hander Kelsey Outram ('Iolani '08 of Mililani pitched two scoreless innings for the Thunderbirds.


• East Carolina senior shortstop Kaui Tom (Kamehameha '06 of Kailua) drove in the winning run of a 4-3 victory over Marshall Saturday. Tom hit a sacrifice fly to left field, which scored senior third baseman Cristen Aona (Punahou '06 of Kapolei) from third base. The game went to extra innings after senior left fielder Marina Gusman-Brown (Pearl City '06 of 'Ewa Beach) hit a two-out, two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh.

• Mississippi State sophomore outfielder Kaili Smith (Kapolei '08) hit a two-run double in the third inning of an 18-13 loss to Arkansas Sunday. Smith, who drew a walk in her first at bat, also scored twice.

• Joslyn Eugenio (Sacred Hearts '09 of Kapolei) of St. Martin's (Wash.) was named to the All-Tournament Team at Tournament of Champions held last week at Cal State Stanislaus. Eugenio hit .583 with 14 hits in 24 at-bats. While pitching, she split two decisions and picked up a save. Eugenio leads the team with a .381 batting average. Jaimee Aiwohi (Mililani '09) is batting .200 for the Saints.

• Otero (Colo.) freshmen second basemen Laura Abellanida (Sacred Heart Academy '09 of 'Ewa Beach) batted 3 for 4 with a homer, double and four RBIs in a 9-8 win over McCook last week.


• Stanford sophomore outside hitter Brad Lawson ('Iolani '08 of Honolulu) was named co-Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Player of the Week yesterday after helping the Cardinal to three-set wins at UC San Diego and Long Beach State last weekend. Lawson had 30 kills against five errors in 47 attempts to hit .532. He also collected 12 digs, six assists and four blocks to help Stanford claim sole possession of first place. It is the third time Lawson has received the award this season. Hawai'i freshman opposite Jonas Umlauft also was named co-Player of the Week.

• BYU sophomore Futi Tavana (Kaua'i '06 of Kalaheo) set a new school record for total blocks with 15 in a four-set win over UC Santa Barbara Saturday. Tavana, a 6-foot-8 middle blocker, had 14 block assists and one solo block to go along with five kills and a dig for the Cougars.

• Missouri Valley's Jay Hanagami (Waiākea '07 of Hilo) was named NAIA Libero of the Week on Monday. He averaged 5.75 digs per game and passed for a .984 passing efficiency last week. It's his fourth honor of the season.


• Senior Mikey Lim (Punahou '06 of Honolulu), who attends Claremont McKenna, beat the No. 6-ranked player in the West Region, Marc Vartabedian, 6-4 , 6-2, at No. 2 singles of an 8-1 win over UC Santa Cruz Thursday.

• Janelle Arita (Punahou '07 of Mililani) is 4-1 in her last five matches at No. 1 singles for DePauw (Ind.), which is ranked eighth in NCAA Division III. During that streak, Arita beat defending national champion Lorne McManigle of Emory (Ga.), 6-2, 6-2.

• Pacific (Ore.) got singles' victories from sophomores Cat Goya (St. Andrew's '08 of Kāne'ohe) and Megan Yoshimoto (Mililani '08) at the top two spots in a 7-2 win over Puget Sound Sunday. Freshman Rachel Mizuno (Mililani '09) and junior Stephanie Velligas (Kamehameha '07) won at No. 4 and 5 singles, respectively. Goya and Yoshimoto won 8-2 at No. 1 doubles, Mizuno and senior Dayna Wong (Waiākea '06 of Hilo) won 8-6 at No. 2 doubles, and Velligas and freshman Michelle Soga (Maui '08 of Kahului) won 8-0 at No. 3 doubles.


• Southern California freshman Abe Markowitz (Punahou '09) set a personal record in the shot put with a throw of 53 feet, 11 inches, placing seventh at the Cal-Nevada Championships hosted by UCLA.

• Bailey Massenburg (King Kekaulike '09 of Kula) of Point Loma Nazarene (Calif.) ran on the winning 4x800 relay team at Saturday's Point Loma Collegiate Scoring Meet. Teammate Mark Miller (St. Anthony '07 of Kahului) was sixth in the men's javelin (156 feet, 7 inches) and 17th in the discus (115-9). The Sea Lions finished second in the men's and women's team standings.

• Wyoming's Larissa Edwards (Ka'ū '08 of Pāhala) was second in the 100 hurdles (14.58 seconds) and ran on the second-place 4x100 relay team at Sunday's Colorado State-Pueblo Open. Teammate Kekoa Chavez (Hilo '05) was fifth in the men's 400 hurdles (52.89) at the Arizona State Invitational on Saturday.


• Arizona State sophomore Kahoku Palafox (Maryknoll '08 of Kailua) scored a 9.75 on the uneven bars at the Pac-10 Conference championships Saturday in Tucson, Ariz. The Sun Devils finished seventh with 190.675 points. UCLA posted 197.350 points to win its 15th league title.


• Air Force's Bailey Ball (Lahainaluna '06 of Lahaina) won the National College Boxing Association Western Regional on March 20. Ball, a 2006 state wrestling champion, beat Alfred Abello of San Francisco in the semifinals and Phillip Bremner of Cal in the final. Ball advances to the national championships at West Point next week.


• UC San Diego junior attacker Hanalei Crowell (Kamehameha '06 of Kailua) scored four goals, including the game winner, in a 10-9 decision over Cal State Bakersfield Saturday.

Advertiser Staff Writer Stanley Lee contributed to this report. Reach Kalani Takase at ktakase@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2404.