Merkle captures fourth Jennie K. Pak ends win drought in Alabama rain
• Photo gallery: Jennie K. Wilson tournament - Finals
By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer
LANIKAI — On the 60th anniversary of the Jennie K. Wilson Invitational, Kristina Merkle continued her climb into Hawai'i golf history.
Yesterday, Merkle became only the second to win four Jennie K. championships, carving a 1-over-par 73 through blustery winds to defend her title at Mid-Pacific Country Club. Her 54-hole total was 2-over 218.
The Tulsa freshman won Hawai'i's most prestigious women's title by five shots over Boise State freshman Hayley Young (75) and Punahou sixth-grader Allisen Corpuz (73), who finished second a second straight year and lamented a trio of final-round three-putts.
University of Hawai'i freshman Kaili Britos (77) was fourth at 224. Nicole Sakamoto (76), Hee Sue Condry (77), Eimi Koga (77) and 11-year-old Mariel Galdiano (80) shared fifth at 228.
Merkle's margin of victory was one more than last year and identical to her first win, in 2006. The following year, she beat everybody by 13.
But for five lipouts the first day and a four-putt sandwiched by a pair of dented flagsticks yesterday — both shots refused to drop — it could have been double digits again this year.
"She is really focused out there," said Young, a Mid-Pacific Institute graduate. "That's something I need to learn."
Only Hawai'i Golf Hall of Famer Joan Damon has done it better, winning six Jennie K. titles between 1957 and '66. Merkle might be one missed 4-footer — which prevented a playoff with Xyra Suyetsugu in 2008 — from a record five in a row.
There is something about Mid-Pacific and the Jennie K. that brings out Merkle's best. She flew home from the NCAA regionals Tuesday and was on the range with her father, Nagorski pro Lou Merkle, by 2 p.m.
By Friday, she was on her way to another win.
"When you come here the women here are just so great to you," the two-time state high school champion from Moanalua said. "They welcomed me with open arms. I really felt like I was home."
A second-round 71 left Merkle tied with first-round leader Nicole Sakamoto going into the final round. They were still tied yesterday after the fourth hole, where Merkle hit the flag with her tee shot.
Both hit into the water on the par-5 fifth. Merkle salvaged par and Sakamoto, who now has three top-five finishes in the last four years, took double-bogey. But for a four-putt hiccup on the ninth hole, Merkle showed no mercy the rest of the way.
Young was a shot back at the turn, but Merkle came within a foot of an ace on the 11th hole and knocked in another birdie putt on the next hole to provide a cushion.
She one-putted the next two holes for par, then hit the flag again with her chip on the 15th. She missed that par putt, but two-putted the par-5 16th for birdie and softly dropped her approach shot within 3 feet on the next hole for another.
"She doesn't let anything get to her," said Corpuz, who learned from Merkle last year the value of "not messing up on the final few holes."
It doesn't even cross Merkle's mind, even under the most powerful microscope in Hawai'i women's golf. Merkle wrote "Focus on Every Shot" in red ink on her left forearm and, with the exception of the ninth hole, never wavered.
Flight winners were Trish Lawson (83—253) in A, Ernette Asato (88—268) in B, Tomoko Takahashi (95—283) in C, Marcia Anderson (96—291) in D and Arlene Hirata (91—289) in E.
Punahou junior Alina Ching has verbally committed to play for Pepperdine in 2011-2012.
In U.S. Open local qualifiers in Hawai'i this weekend, California's Mark Scheibach advanced by shooting a 3-under 69 at Wailua and Doug Stacy (Kahului), Frank Luchowski (Kihei) and Royden Heirakuji (Makawao) all advanced on Maui by shooting 73 at the King Kamehameha Golf Club. Each qualifier advances to one of 13 Sectionals.
In the 36-hold Francis Brown 4-Ball Match Play Championship at Ala Wai Golf Course, the team of Seung Jae Maeng and Tyler Ota beat Justin Kurihara and Jino Sohn, 4 and 2, for the championship flight title. Fred Denault/Paul Ichimura beat Tyler Ichiki/Gavin Shigesato, 4 and 2, in the A flight final, and Chad Ikezawa/Wes Anderson beat Chung Chang/Robert Seki, 1-up on the 40th hole, in the B flight final.