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Agnes Yamauchi finds unexpected golf bliss

  • WAYNE "YAMA" YAMAUCHI photo
    Agnes Yamauchi warms up at Ko Olina Golf Course, where the windy conditions had the palm trees swaying.

Instead of seeking shelter from Tropical Storm Olivia, Agnes Yamauchi was out on Oahu’s Ko Olina Golf Course attacking pins.

Yamauchi fired a 12-over 84 at a local qualifier on Wednesday to earn a spot to the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur.

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Mira Jang, from Oahu, took medalist honors with an 8-over 80, and Maui’s Lisa Judge tied Yamauchi to also qualify for the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, which will be held Oct. 6-11 at Vero Beach, Fla.

Yamauchi’s first berth to a national tournament didn’t come easily. In fact, she was in a deep rabbit hole as she stood at 9-over after the front nine.

She made bogey on every hole, except for No. 7 and No. 9, where she carded par and double-bogey, respectively.

From there, her determination kicked in, Yamauchi opened the back nine with three straight pars, followed by a birdie on No. 14 — a par 5, 464-yard dragstrip, guarded by bunkers and palm trees.

Then she had consecutive pars, a bogey on No. 17 and double-bogey on No. 18, a par 4, 377-yard challenge with water hazards to disturb a golfer’s serenity.

Yamauchi didn’t have a lot of leeway in the 12-person field. Dunk a ball in the water and it’s likely she’s staying home. Oahu’s Marie Miyashiro finished with an 86 and is the first alternate.

“It’s unexpected,” Yamauchi said of qualifying. “I’d thought I’d play it and see how I compare to other women. I didn’t expect it because I didn’t play very well.”

Her son, Dalen Yamauchi, a former UH-Hilo golfer and pro based in Arizona, sent her the info on the qualifier at Ko Olina.

Her husband, Wayne “Yama” Yamauchi, was her caddie. Unfortunately, Yama won’t be her caddie in Florida because he has travel plans to visit Arizona.

Agnes described the greens as fast with windy conditions at Ko Olina, which hosted the LPGA’s Lotte Championship back in April.

“I’ve never played in this tourney before,” Agnes said. “My driver was OK, and I settled down on the back nine. I got a couple of pars and one birdie, which was kind of a plus. On the back nine, Yama had to calm me down.”

When Agnes and Yama, who’s retired, are not volunteering at a BIIF game or running a Nobu Yamauchi RBI baseball or softball event, they’re hitting the links.

Like Dalen, Casey Yamauchi, the youngest, grew up in baseball. But unlike his older brother, it’s baseball for Casey at the bat. He’ll play ball at UH-Hilo.

Dalen Yamauchi qualified twice for the NCAA Division II national championships, and Yama saw the same spark in mother and son.

“I could see the fire in her eyes to win like Dalen,” Yama said. “She never gave up after shooting 9-over on the front nine. Conditions were tough, windy, wet, and cold.

“She was the only woman to shoot 39 over the final nine holes. I’m very proud of her, just like I’m proud of Casey and Dalen.”

Dalen got serious about golf in his freshman year at Waiakea. His mom was a late bloomer as well. Agnes didn’t really start to play until after college.

She’s a counselor at Hilo High. She’s competed in local qualifiers and local tournaments before but never entered with the mindset she would be playing at a beauty like the Orchid Island and Beach Club, a course designed by Arnold Palmer.

“I thought I might as well try it since it’s in Hawaii,” Agnes said. “After school and weekend, we’ll play, but it’s not every day.”

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That will soon change.

“Now with the tourney, I’ve got to practice every day,” said the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur qualifier.