Hawaii seeks strong finish in WAC
By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer
Hawai'i goes into the Western Athletic Conference Men's Golf Championship looking for its first top-five WAC finish in five years, and hope for the future.
The tournament runs tomorrow through Wednesday at Rio Secco Golf Club in Las Vegas.
The Warriors will try to win, but after this semester's struggles it might be more crucial just to sense progress.
"The youth of our team really shows now, and the inexperience," said UH coach Ronn Miyashiro, who has no seniors and only one junior (Kamden Brakel). "We've been on a string of playing bad and it's like making four bogeys in a row — if you don't know how to get out of it you are in trouble. That's the kind of funk we're in."
Hawai'i has finished last in its last three tournaments. It hasn't been higher than 13th since November. The Warriors are 237th nationally based on Golfstat's scoring average rating, and the only WAC team averaging above 300.
Fresno State leads the WAC, at just under 288. That puts the Bulldogs 19th nationally. Nevada, which might be the most experienced of the WAC teams, is at 289, which ranks 25th. Defending WAC champion New Mexico State is the only other conference team in the top 100 (98th at 294).
That clearly leaves room for UH to maneuver, and bring some optimism into next season. Reigning Mānoa Cup champion TJ Kua has led Hawai'i in its last three starts, and five times this season. Freshman Cory Oride and sophomore Jared Sawada were the Warriors' top finishers in the other four events.
Putting five good scores together has proven elusive.
"The key thing for the team is going to be depth," Miyashiro said. "At San Jose, TJ and Cory were top 25, but the other three were in the bottom 10. Everybody has to contribute. If we have two guys in the top five and the rest in the Top 25 then we might have a shot."
Kua's stroke average of 74.04 ranks 14th in the WAC. Fresno State's Bhavik Patel, who is playing in this year's U.S. Open, leads with 71.38.
No other Warrior is better than 76. The frustration is not surprising for such a young team — Miyashiro figured the core of this group would peak next season — but patience can be tough at times.
"No one is giving up. We've just got to work through it," he said. "Sometimes it comes fast. It's been slow for us. This tournament is for us to build some momentum for next fall, but the beauty of golf is if you can get all five guys to play well at once you never know what will happen. And we really need it."