Different strokes: Waiakea’s Kanno, Uchida pocket big victories while they can

  • Lacey Uchida claimed the women’s open division at the 57th annual Hawaii State Amateur Stroke Play Championship, finishing with a 71 to post a five-shot victory

  • Isaiah Kanno, left, received an award Sunday for winning the 57th annual Hawaii State Amateur Stroke Play Championship, winning in a playoff at Leilehua Golf Course on Oahu.

Waiakea High junior Isaiah Kanno had a new addition to his golf bag last week on Oahu: hand sanitizer.

If Warriors junior Lacey Uchida didn’t shake the hands with those in her pairing – forget about hugging – it was nothing personal.

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The COVID-19 outbreak couldn’t help but cast a shadow as Kanno and Uchida took bittersweet turns at Leilehua Golf Course. But if this was their last tournaments for a while, they went out in grand fashion as champions at the 57th annual Hawaii State Amateur Stroke Play Championship.

“Everyone was pretty heartbroken to hear the news about our (BIIF) season being postponed,” Uchida said Tuesday. “I had two more rounds to play (Saturday and Sunday) after I found out, and decided to just make the best of the last two days, figuring that it was gonna be my last rounds for a while.”

High school athletic activities in Hawaii were suspended this week – canceling, among other events, a BIIF golf tournament Tuesday at Waikoloa Kings’ Course – and the specter of a season-long shutdown appears to be a growing possibility.

“I’m a little sad about it,” Kanno said, “but the main thing is that everyone should be safe from the virus.”

The Waiakea golfers are no strangers to triumph at BIIF and Hawaii State Junior Golf Association events, but this was their first taste of victory at a tournament that is open to all amateurs and sponsored by the Hawaii State Golf Association.

“I would consider this a good win, and being that everything got canceled, I was even happier to pull (it) off,” Uchida said.

The reigning BIIF girls champion faced her share of final-round pressure Sunday in pulling away for a five-stroke victory, but nothing compared to Kanno.

The 2017 BIIF boys champ recovered nicely from a 7-over 79 on Thursday, carding a 70-69-68 over the last three rounds to get to 2-under.

“I kept on getting used to the course, and after playing each day I was more familiar and was able to be more aggressive on my shots,” Kanno said.

But that 68 didn’t help him avoid a playoff.

On No. 18, Kanno’s bogey, just his second of the day, left him in a three-way tie with Oahu’s Kolbe Irei, who made par on 18, and Andy Okita, who earlier had made par.

In the playoff, “All 3 of us hit good first and second shots into the green,” Kanno said. “Kolbe and Andy both hit good putts but they just missed the hole. I kinda got lucky and was able to make my birdie (15-foot) putt to win.”

Uchida also played better later into the tournament, opening with consecutive 77s, then carding a 74. In the final round, she made the turn two strokes behind Oahu’s Chloe Jang before catching fire. Uchida played her last nine holes bogey-free with four birdies, finishing with a 71 to get to 11-over.

“The first nine was a battle of many ups and downs, but at the turn I told myself to keep it in perspective to what is happening in our world today,” Uchida said. “And I said that I am really lucky to be out here, playing the game that I love, and being virus-free.

“My putting finally kicked in on the last nine that I played, and I couldn’t have asked for a better way to finish my last tournament.”

Just when her next tournament is remains to be seen.

Also on hold is the HSJGA season. According to executive director Matt Rollins, the HSJGA has postponed Saturday’s Hawaii Junior Golf Day, which was to be held at various courses around the state, including Hilo Municipal Golf Course and Hualalai, and the first two Junior Tour Series 14-and-under tournaments. Those were set for Saturday on Maui and March 28 on Oahu. A 14U tournament scheduled for Mauna Lani-North on April 4-5 is in limbo.

“We will be re-evaluating the remainder of our schedule as we receive more information from industry leaders and government personnel,” Rollins said.

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Uchida will be biding her time.

“With people getting sick and even dying, postponing a few tournaments isn’t so bad,” she said. “We are very lucky to be healthy to play another day.”

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