KAILUA-KONA — The anticipation, always, in a two-day golf tournament is to see a jammed leaderboard heading into the last nine holes and then watch them fight it out.
That wasn’t the case in the Big Island Invitational at Makani Golf Club when Jared Sawada completed a first round knockout punch he landed Saturday with another one on Sunday that allowed him to cake-walk in with back-to-back rounds of 67 that left him 11 strokes ahead of his nearest competitor.
Along with the confidence gained in the tournament that he almost won last year when it was held at Hilo Municipal, Sawada, a University of Hawaii alum, took home a $5,000 check for first place.
“It just sort of fell together for me and I was a little surprised after my first round here,” Sawada said. “I really only had one practice round and my thought was, ‘Man, this is really a tough course, but it’s beautiful.’ It is quite an upgrade over Hilo Muni.
“I gave it some thought, made some metal adjustments and it all worked out. Pretty good day.”
And that goes even without playing well. It was virtually windless on the sprawling, hillside course, bright blue skies dotted with puffy white clouds framed Sawada’s impressive play.
Kamehameha senior Pono Yanagi won the amateur title with a 74-75—149, good for a tie for sixth overall.
“I wanted to do better,” Yanagi said, “but I’m not mad at it or anything, I learned some things along the way, hopefully.
“The greens played hard and firm, but you had to be precise to score,” he said. “This is only the fourth time I’ve ever played here, but each time, you learn a little more. I had a good game plan but I tried to do too much a couple times, got a little greedy and it cost me. But I learned some things.”
Sawada was involved in a four-way playoff last year and came up short, but this time, on a more challenging course, it was strictly wire-to-wire.
“I haven’t played since the Sony (Open, first event on the PGA Tour in January),” he said, “so I didn’t really know what to expect, but I did expect to play well, you have to come in with some confidence if you’re going to have a chance.”
The shot of the day, maybe of the weekend, came for him on the 6th, a par 5 that he played with a 5-wood off the tee, then laid up about 70 yards away and used a 5-iron that found the cup and gave him an eagle.
“That was nice,” he said, “it was that kind of day. When I would chip to within 6 or 8 feet? I made all of those today.”
He finished with a birdie and six eagles on his winning round, something he’ll try to build on for the Mid-Pac Open, an Aloha Section PGA four-round event on Oahu, April 25-28, his next competition.
While Yanagi won the amateur side of the tournament, he wasn’t the only one catching attention in that group.
Yoonjeong Huh, a 14-year-old attending Makua Lani in Kailua-Kona, made her presence felt in the ranks of Big Island amateurs when she placed 11th overall and second to Yanagi — one stroke behind club pro Kevin Hayashi — with a 151 that she gained after a rough 78 Saturday.
Huh carded six birdies Sunday after only two in the first round. From Korea, she has only been on the Big Island for a little more than a month. Makani has become her home course that she has played “maybe 35-30 times.”
Huh said she has two goals in golf, “To get better every day,” she said, “and one day to play professionally.”
She’s off to a start in that direction.
Top 20 finishers
Jared Sawada 67-67—134
Justin Keiley 73-72— 145
Kellan Anderson 75-72—147
Garrett Okamura 75-72—147
TJ Esaki-Kua 76-72—148
Patrick Murakami 73-76—149
Pono Yanagi 74-75—149
Ryan Acosta 75-74—149
Ivan Cunningham 74-76—150
Kevin Hayashi 76-74—150
Yoonjeong Huh 78-73—151
Kevin Carll 74-78—152
Hunter Larson 78-74—152
Isaiah Kanno 77-76—153
Tracy Kitamura 74-80—154
Jake Grodzinsky 78-76—154
Shaun Downie 75-80—155
Jonathan Ota 79-77—156
Jay Taise J77-79—156
Trevor Hirata 79-78—157