Golf: Hirata, pair of Vuls advance at Manoa Cup

  • RICK WINTERS/West Hawaii Today
    Trevor Hirata.

UH-Hilo golfers are at it again at the 110th Manoa Cup.

Preston Ching coasted Tuesday in match play, while Adam Chiya rallied to win on No. 18, though the real survival story of the day as it relates to the Big Island was turned in by a UH-Manoa golfer, Trevor Hirata.

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The Waiakea graduate recovered after losing a four-shot lead, avoiding disaster on No. 18 and defeating Kauai’s Keegan Loo in 19 holes to advance to the second round at Oahu Country Club in Honolulu.

“Loo didn’t allow me to make any mistakes,” Hirata said. “I did make a few out there and he was able to square the match.”

In sudden death, the players returned to No. 1, which Hirata parred for the second time in the round of 64, while Loo made another bogey.

“I was pretty exhausted (on 19) from walking, but I hit a good drive and hit my approach shot to a few feet,” Hirata said. “(Loo) found the rough and had a hard time from there.”

After taking down the 10th seed, Hirata draws Oahu’s Blaze Akana on Wednesday morning in the state amateur match play championship. Akana, seeded 23rd after Monday’s qualifying, beat Torrin Dezzani 4 and 2.

Ching, a Kamehameha graduate, made par on No. 1 as well in recording a coast-to-coast victory, defeating Honolulu’s Tyler Isono 3 and 1, securing the win with a birdie on 17. Ching, seeded 45th, went ahead by three shots with an eagle on the par-5 No. 6, and his first birdie of the day, on No. 11, helped him reclaim a four-shot lead.

He draws No. 13 Jun Ho Won, a 3-and-2 winner against Ryuhei Sekino.

While Ching was a regular for the Vuls this past season, Chiya played in two tournaments as a freshman.

Chiya took down fellow Honolulu native Trevor Nishiyama 1 up, parring No. 18 as Nishiyama carded a triple bogey to end a seesaw match.

Chiya, who shot the equivalent of even par, enjoyed his best hole with an eagle on the par-5 No. 2 Besides 18, his most important hole was a birdie on No. 17 to square the match.

On Wednesday, Chiya gets Oahu’s 11th-seeded Caleb Keohokapu, a 1-up winner against Shawn Sakoda.

Ching and Chiya, seeded 43rd, are looking to catch fire and make Manoa Cup runs similar to that of Vuls alums Nick Matsushima, Issac Jaffurs and Dalen Yamauchi, each of whom were Manoa Cup runners-up in the past six years.

Jaffurs fell in the round first round, 3 and 2 to Oahu’s Noah Koshi, as did a pair of Waiakea High golfers, Aidan Oki and Isaiah Kanno.

Kanno, the 2017 BIIF champion, shot the equivalent of 69 but ran into a hot hand and trailed throughout against Honolulu’s Kolbe Irei, losing 2 up. Kanno hung tough with four birdies on the back nine and an eagle on 17, but he would have needed another one to extend the match after Irei birdied 18.

Oahu’s Thayne Costa ousted Oki 4 and 2, sealing the deal with his fourth birdie on No. 16. Oki had as many bogeys on the front nine, four, as he did through 18 in his qualifying round of 73 on Monday.

Hirata, a former three-time BIIF champion, almost became a third golfer with Waiakea ties to exit. After watching his four-shot lead steadily dissipate on the back nine, however, he pulled an escape act on the par-4 No. 18 after trying to cut into the fairway but instead finding bunker behind a tree.

He chipped to the fairway and got up and down to extend the match after Loo made par.

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“Although I was tired, I think that par save propelled me into capitalizing on the next hole,” Hirata said.

Among the other golfers to advance were defending champion Andy Okita, co-qualifying medalists Brandan Kop and Tyler Ota and former Hawaii scout team quarterback Hunter Hughes.