UHH golf vies to smell like a Rose again

  • UHH photo Andrew Otani was a freshman on the 2018 UH-Hilo men’s golf team that won the Dennis Rose Intercollegiate on the Kohala Coast.

The best part about the Dennis Rose Intercollegiate tournament is that it’s at home, where parents from the UH-Hilo men’s and women’s golf teams can grab a beneficial 3-for-1 bargain.

The 12-team field each for men and women kicks of Monday and concludes Wednesday at the Waikoloa and Hapuna golf courses.

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The three-day tourney also benefits the Vulcans in the short and long term. First, it saves UHH about $5,000 to not book a flight, hotel, and transportation to the mainland. And maybe, if a golfer strikes it rich like Tiger Woods, who played in the defunct TaylorMade tourney, he visits again or buys 90% of an island.

“We want to expose Hawaii, and the mainland kids are all excited to come,” men’s coach Earl Tamiya said. “We’re the only sport hosting a big tourney like this, and we get repeat visitors to our island. It’s an economic thing for our island. It showcases our athletic department and golf program.”

UHH golf is the only 3-for-1 bargain around. Parents get to watch their kids play, exercise while walking the course and enjoy a mini-vacation. It’s the only health-conscious sport, too, unless a UHH women’s cross-country parent wants to run the course with the Vulcans.

“Very few parents fly to the mainland,” women’s coach Jim DeMello said. “This is the only opportunity they have to watch their son or daughter play.

“We’ve been playing at Hapuna the last three weeks, which helps us. We’re more familiar with the course than other teams.”

UHH men’s assistant Sean Maekawa has played at Waikoloa countless times as the only four-time BIIF champion back in the day as a Honokaa Dragon. He turned into master Yoda when describing the key to doing well at the windy course.

“You have to be patient,” he said. “It’s not an overly difficult course, but you can’t force it,” he said. “You play the right way, hit good shots and good scores will come to you.”

The great thing about team golf is it depends on an individual’s effort and teamwork. Get a group to score well together and you win. Golf also neutralizes weak spots. If you hit it long but can’t putt, then your score will be similar to the little guy who hits short but putts better.

Sometimes a team bonds well, pushes each other, and produces over a three-day tourney like the Vulcans did back in 2018, when they last won the Rose.

UHH junior Andrew Otani was a freshman on that team, which was led by Jared Kinoshita and Taylor Patrick, who finished first and second, respectively. Otani, the only Vulcan left from that 2018 team, was third for the Vuls.

“I remember the whole team coming together at the right time, and everything worked out,” he said. “Everyone put in work during the fall season. Jared and Patrick were the two most experienced and carried everyone else and helped everybody play their best.

“I felt a lot of pressure as the new guy on the team, to play my best not just for myself, but for the whole team, Hilo, and the state of Hawaii.”

The Rose is in its 15th year, and the Vulcans have won five times. Kinoshita shot a school-record 65 in the first round, and while Otani witnessed that great feat he’s seeing something special in junior teammate Keith Ng.

The transfer from the University of British Columbia has won three titles in four tournaments, joining Nick Mason, James, Hall, Logan Goudling, and Dalen Yamauchi, who all won three tournaments in their entire careers.

“Keith doesn’t hit it that far, but he’s one of the best putters, not just on the team, but the whole time I’ve been playing college golf that I’ve ever seen,” Otani said. “He has a routine. It’s the same thing for every shot. He’ll go through his whole walk through. Nothing changes. I wish I had the same discipline for myself.”

Otani grew up on Oahu and played baseball and basketball as a youngster but nothing stuck, despite the fact that his parents, Daniel and Lei Otani, grandpa and uncle played. At 10 years old, the family sport grabbed him, and he eventually graduated from Iolani in 2018.

“It’s very different from high school golf to college,” he said. “With high school, you don’t travel. You might miss one day of school. In college, you’re on a road trip for a week.”

Still, he cracked the books hard and the accounting and economics double major landed on the PacWest All-Academic team, and he’s already got a job lined up with the family business, United Fishing Agency, which is basically a broker for fishermen to wholesalers.

His dad is the president but his mom holds higher office.

“She’s the Boss of the house,” Otani sort of joked.

In any case, if the president and Otani Boss approve his application he would be the fourth generation to work for the company his grandfather started in 1952. He doubled-checked on the date with the Otani Boss at their hotel room.

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“They’ve done so much for me,” he said. “I wouldn’t be here if not for them. I’m technically a senior. The four years have gone by so fast. I was looking into the requirements for a CPA, and I need extra credit, so I’ll golf another year. It works out in its own way.”

After each round Otani’s parents can ask him about his performance, and he can ask how their exercise went, as they give him a high-five, watch him play again and enjoy their mini-vacation, the best 3-for-1 UHH deal around.

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