Waiakea golfers renew friendly rivalries in match play

  • Tribune-Herald file photo Dysen Park reached the Big Island final of the Hawaii State Junior Golf Association’s match play tournament.

There were no handshakes between Waiakea teammates Dysen Park and Kobey Babas, only intense match play battles.

Park edged Babas 5 and 3 at the Hawaii State Junior Golf Association’s match play tournament Saturday at Hilo Municipal Golf Course.

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Golf feels like a safe social-distancing sport to play and competitors felt that way all day.

“I felt pretty good. I was happy to play golf again because of the coronavirus,” Park said. “I know the virus is out there, but I followed the safety precautions, no handshakes, sanitize my hands. It was OK.”

The tournament benefits the Hawaii Foodbank and more than $5,000 has been raised to date. The Waiakea sophomore plays the Dillon Ah Chong-Ryder Ng winner next week for the boys 13-18 Big Island bracket title.

“I have to wait one more week to play again,” Park said. “I was hitting pretty good drives. My putting wasn’t the best. I made do with it. I played decent.”

In the girls 13-18 bracket, which featured a four-player field, Waiakea junior Elle Otani beat teammate, Kailey Oki, a Waiakea senior, 2 up to claim the championship.

“I played pretty well overall,” Otani said. “It was raining off and on and kind of challenging. In the beginning, I had a hard time putting. After the front nine, I was 2 down, but felt I had a chance to win because I was hitting greens.

“I heard you qualify for the Michelle Wie championships, and that was one of my goals for the year.”

Brackets also are being held on Oahu, Maui and Kauai, with winners gaining invites to the Michelle Wie Tournament of Champions in December on Maui.

At Waiakea, the golfers are used to going up against tough competition. The 2019 defending HHSAA champions battle each other at practice.

Friendship is often put aside to push each other. That was the case again.

“Although she’s my teammate and friend, I did want to beat her,” said Otani, who beat Kailua-Kona’s Mia Okazaki 8 and 7 in the first round. Oki had advanced with a 6-and-5 win over Isabella Rodriguez of Waikoloa.

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The golfing Otani family is still set to make noise at the HSJGA tourney. Noah Otani, a Waiakea freshman, lost to Ng 1 up but is set to play a consolation match.

The family’s youngest, Jake, is set to play Hilo’s Noah Miyazono next week in the boys 7-12 bracket. Miyazono advanced with a 7-and-6 victory against Kailua-Kona’s Noah Izawa Okazaki. On the other side of seven-golfer field, Otani drew a bye, Keaau’s Kahaʻiʻōlelo Helm will take on Blake Nakagawa of Kailua-Kona. In the first round, Helm downed Kailua-Kona’s Ulukoa Kailiwai 7 and 6 and Nakagawa outlasted Remi Heimgartner of Kailua-Kona in 19 holes.

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