Golf: Waiakea carries streak at Big Island Amateur

Trevor Hirata has a previous engagement and won’t be back to defend his title at the Big Island Amateur, but that doesn’t mean Waiakea can’t keep the crown in its ohana.

The 95th edition of the tournament tees off this weekend at Mauna Lani’s North Course, and Warriors’ alums of late have turned it into a version resembling their school invitational.

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Hirata’s first triumph in 2017 marked the fifth consecutive year a golfer with Waiakea ties tasted victory.

In the past, the tournament has been held in mid-August, and the later date was a scheduling conflict for Hirata, a three-time BIIF champion who is poised to start his junior season with the University of Hawaii.

One potential successor is Waiakea junior Isaiah Kanno. The reigning Hawaii State Junior Golf Association champ said he’s been happy with three of his previous outings at the Amateur, though that doesn’t include his fourth try in 2017.

“Mauni Lani is a very nice and challenging golf course, especially when it’s windy,” Kanno said. “When I play there my game is either really good or really bad.”

He’s played championship-quality golf before on the Kohala Coast, pocketing the BIIF title in 2017 as a freshman at Mauna Kea.

“My expectation is at least to place top five in my flight (championship), but I’m gonna try to win it.”

He’ll tee off in Saturday morning’s first round, which starts at 9 a.m., in a group that includes a Waiakea classmate, fellow junior Aidan Oki, and an alum, Bret Furutani, a former U.S. Amateur Public Links championship qualifier

Oki hopes is third Amateur is a charm.

“While I did not play my best, it was a good experience for me and I got to meet a lot of great people,” he said. “Mauni Lani is a beautiful course and one of my favorites.”

Among those trying to derail the Waiakea train are Kamehameha senior Pono Yanagi, a perennial contender who lost a state junior playoff to Kanno in late June at Hokulia, and Hilo High’s Riley Kaneshiro, the 2018 BIIF champion.

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Ciera Min started the Waiakea run in 2013 by becoming the tourament’s first female champ and Shon Katahira won the following year before Dalen Yamauchi went back-to-back.

The second 18 holes are Sunday morning, starting at 7:40 a.m.

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