Kamehameha junior Pono Yanagi made a strong second-day run with a 1-under-par 71 at the HHSAA championships on Friday at Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu, showing that he belongs in the same neighborhood among the state’s best golfers.
After an opening 76, he finished with a 3-over 147 total to reach the top 10, six shots behind state medalist and Moanalua senior AJ Teraoka, who had the day’s low round with a 67 for a 141 total.
Yanagi had the highest finish among BIIF competitors on a leaderboard filled with Oahu golfers, including several talented young ones in Hawaii Baptist freshman Noah Koshi (72—142), Mid-Pacific sophomore Davis Lee (70—143), and Roosevelt junior Kolbe Irei (74—144).
“Overall, it was a great tournament,” Yanagi said. “It was definitely a grind for the two days. I had some mistakes that cost me strokes, but I was able to come back on Friday. Friday was definitely a better day. I had a lot of great shots.”
Punahou senior Evan Kawai was fifth (72—145). In sixth at 146 were a bunch of golfers: Punahou senior Remington Hirano, Baptist junior Alex Kam, St. Anthony senior Chad Lee, and Moanalua senior Ray Kim.
Teraoka signed with Hawaii and Kawai and Hirano with San Diego. Lee and Kim will also be gone, but five of the state’s top 10 placers return next year, promising loaded competition with a lot of one-shot separation among finishers. Earning a state medal with a top 15 finish will be tough enough.
Waiakea sophomore Isaiah Kanno was tied for 16th with a 73-77—150 total. Hilo junior and BIIF champion Riley Kaneshiro was tied for 23rd with a 77-77—154 total.
Other BIIF golfers were Waiakea’s Aiden Oki, T36th, 79-80—159; Hilo’s Ethan Hironaga, T36, 78-81—159; Kamehameha’s Dillon Ah Chong, T40th, 80-80—160; Waiakea’s Riku Omata, T53rd, 82-82—164; Waiakea’s Isaac Inouye, T64th, 85-82—167; Waiakea’s Trey Nakagawa, T71st, 83-89—172; Waiakea’s Kobe Toledo, 28th, 82-90—172; Waiakea’s Scott Igawa, T76th, 87-87—174; Waiakea’s Kobey Babas, 88th, 90-91—181; and Kealakehe’s Kobe Lorenzo, T89th, 84-99—183.
Moanalua won the state team title with a 590 total. Punahou was second at 596 and Waiakea third at 638.
By the numbers, Yanagi remains the BIIF’s best bet to challenge for a state title. He started the day six shots back and ended in the same place, six behind. However, he was one of only seven in the 96-man field to shot under par for at least one round.
No one shot under par for both days. Koshi, the freshman, came the closest. He had a 2-under 70 in the first round and even par 72 in the final round.
Yanagi’s self-assessment was right on the money. His first round included a few costly mistakes, and he made great shots in the final round. It was a great tournament for him with valuable experience to carry into next year.
Earlier, at the BIIF championships, Yanagi lost a two-stroke lead and the title to Kaneshiro. But Yanagi put himself into contention with a first-round 1-under 71 at Hualalai. Basically, he gave himself a shot at the title.
Against the state’s best competition, Yanagi did the same thing.
Despite having the worst score at 76 among those who finished ahead of him, Yanagi’s second-day 71 was better than everyone else, except for Teraoka and Lee, putting him in an exclusive neighborhood.