The University of Hawaii at Hilo men’s golf team saw encouraging signs for the near future and beyond Sunday at Pearl City Country Club.
In the Vulcans’ last round ahead of the Pacific West Conference championships, Junghwan Willis Lee fired a sizzling 3-under 69 as UHH moved up a spot to finish second at the Hawaii Triangular on Oahu.
“I think for this tournament it was important for us to come back,” said Lee, a redshirt freshman who credited his putting for helping him achieve the low round of the day.
That got him to 7-over and a tie for fifth, but the most consistent Vul of the weekend was Hilo High alum Ethan Hironaga, who closed with a 75 and was third at 5-over. Coming into the tournament, Hironaga, a freshman, had never shot in the 70s in a college round.
“I was actually able to keep the ball in play off the tee,” Hironaga said. “I was more relaxed. I was much more nervous in previous tournaments.
He finished five shots behind Hawaii Pacific’s Keita Okada (70), who won for the second consecutive weekend, beating teammate Ryan Torres by six shots at 3-under. The Sharks won the team title at 11-over.
In Saturday’s first round, the Vuls were 30-over, but they improved by 18 strokes to surpass Chaminade and get within 11 shots of HPU.
Andrew Otani (73) also tied for fifth, Noah Lau (74) was another shot back at 8-over, and Dustin Franko (74) and Nicholas Gomez (82) were 10-over.
Lee’s previous low round this season was a 75. He said his career-best round was a 63.
One of his best shots Sunday was 25-foot putt to make birdie on the par 4 14th.
“I was zoned in and focused more on my putts,” Lee said.
The PacWest championships tee off April 19 at Waikoloa Kings’ Course with the first of three rounds.
“By the scores we put up today, I know my team can do well,” Lee said. “I believe in my teammates.”
Hironaga won’t compete at the finals, but he was able to set a foundation for the future.
“I’m just glad my coach (Earl Tamiya) took me on all the tournaments,” he said. “He gave me a chance.”