Makua Lani freshman Amy Huh and Waiakea freshman Dyson Park have the same type of precocious and powerful golf game, despite coming in different packages.
Park could pass for a linebacker while Huh is much shorter. Still they both hit the ball a long way, hit it straight and do good work around the greens.
They’ll make an imprint in BIIF golf sooner rather than later.
Huh shot a 1-over 72 and tied with Waiakea junior Lacey Uchida for medalist honors Wednesday at Hilo Municipal Golf Course, where the rain didn’t come until after play was completed.
Park carded a 3-over 74 to finish second to Kamehameha senior Dillon Ah Chong, who fired a 73 in a field that was missing three Waiakea seniors: Aiden Oki, Riku Omata, and Isaiah Kanno, the 2017 BIIF champion.
Waiakea boys coach Alika Toledo has the same issue as Waiakea girls coach Bobby Perreira had last season when the Warriors won the HHSAA championship: qualify as much golfers as possible for states.
Uchida, who was third at states last season, has been pushed all her life by her sister Kaelyn Uchida, who’s now at UH-Hilo.
She’s been pushed by her teammates, too, but it’s a different story with Huh, the first outside influence who’ll threaten Waiakea’s greatest BIIF streak of 16 straight individual champions.
Uchida is part of that list as the BIIF defending champion. But Huh plays like a seasoned veteran with an unshakable demeanor despite her youth.
On the 18th hole, Huh’s approach shot was nearly 30 yards ahead of Uchida’s. Huh landed at the top of the fringe, 60 feet away but calmly two-putted. Uchida stuck her shot closer to the hole and also two-putted.
They’re far from unfriendly rivals. In fact, they get along, share snacks and appreciate each other’s game.
“It was super fun playing with her. It was comfortable,” Huh said. “I don’t think we’ve played together since four months ago.”
“We were sharing all kinds of snacks and talking the whole time,” Uchida said. “She hits it far and hits bombs.”
Uchida had three birdies but also three-putted the 13th and 17th holes and missed a tap-in on 16.
Huh had one birdie and three pars. She shot 37 on the front and 35 on the back. Uchida went 36-36.
“I’ve been working on my putting,” Huh said. “It’s been getting better. I didn’t miss any short putts today.”
In perhaps a troubling trend, the girls field ran only 10 deep and Waiakea was the only team, with at least three golfers. The Warriors posted a 230 total to win.
Waiakea sophomore Kiersten Saludares was third at 78 and junior Kailey Oki was fourth at 80. Sophomore Elle Otani was fourth at 82.
Hilo junior Chanelle Hwang was fifth at 84.
Saludares knows all about sibling standards. Her sister Kaley Saludares is a two-time BIIF champion and golfs at Hawaii Pacific. (Kaley’s former college, Concordia, Portland, will shut down at the end of Spring 2020.)
“My round was good. I liked my putting on the first nine,” Saludares said. “I hit 10 greens, and that’s good for me.”
Perreira has high expectations for his Warriors. A 230 total is good, but something in the 225 range is what he’s looking for. Waiakea averaged a 229 over two rounds to its state championship last season.
“Like last year, we don’t want to be peaking right now. We want to be peaking around states,” he said. “We want to be at 225. We want to shave five to eight strokes.”
Waiakea has won the last five BIIF titles. Even in years when the roster was limited to three golfers, like in 2013, the team has always had a front-runner. That’s held true for the last 16 years.
That suddenly changed with the impactful arrival of Huh, who could become the first non-Warriors BIIF champion since Hilo’s Kira-Ann Murashige in 2003.
The boys BIIF individual champion race is wide open with defending champion Pono Yanagi, of Kamehameha, off to Washington State, the same college his sister, Nani Yanagi, a 2010 BIIF champion out of Waiakea, went to.
Ah Chong hasn’t committed to a college yet but intends to enjoy his last year.
“I want to go out and have fun,” he said. “I had a lot of putts that I had to make, three footers that were must make.
“My goal is to play my best and see what happens.”
Park was in the fight to share medalist honors or give himself a shot at a title.
When he made the turn, he was one shot back of Ah Chong. After the 14th, he was two strokes down.
“My goal is to have fun with my teammates,” Park said. “Hopefully, I can make states and have a shot at it.”
Toledo envisions a bright future for the young Park, who shot 37-37.
“He had a couple of three putt and missed an eagle on 12,” Toledo said. “He may be the key for our season. For states, it takes four good rounds, not one or two. In all my years here, this may be my most solid team.”
The Warriors won the last three BIIF titles and finished fourth at states last year. Kanno was 16th with a 77-78—155 total.
Hilo senior Ethan Hironaga was third Wednesday with a 77. He’s one of those guys with an eternally positive attitude. If a score goes sideways, he’ll keep going.
“It could have been better. I shot OK on the front nine. I was 1 over,” he said. “The last two holes killed me. On 17, I duffed my chip and three-putted and on 18 I was in front of the green and four-putted.”
He was resourceful enough to land a scholarship at UHH. He reached out to coach Earl Tamiya and got a chance to continue his golf.
“I’m grateful for that,” he said. “I know I have to work 10 times harder because coach Earl has high expectations.
“I’d like to keep my average below 75 and try to win the BIIF title since it’s my last year.”
Hironaga and Park share the same swing coach, Troy Tamiya, Earl’s son and also a Vulcan assistant coach.
“Dyson is talented,” Hironaga said. “He hits the ball a long way, and he hits everything straight, and he’s got a good game around the greens.”
Hironaga was describing one talented freshman, but he could have also been talking about two.
BIIF golf results
Hilo Muni, par 71
Lacey Uchida, Waiakea, 72
Amy Huh, Makua Lani, 72
Kiersten Saludares, Waiakea, 78
Kailey Oki, Waiakea, 80
Elle Otani, Waiakea, 82
Chanelle Hwang, Hilo, 84
Kara Nagato, Hilo, 95
Keao Johnson, Konawaena, 140
Leia Kang, Waiakea, 112 (JV)
Sienna Chanhmany, Waiakea, 125 (JV)
Dillon Ah Chong, Kamehameha, 73
Dyson Park, Waiakea, 74
Ethan Hironaga, Hilo, 77
Kobey Babas, Waiakea, 80
Isaac Inouye, Waiakea, 81
Aukahi Lapera, Waiakea, 82
Kevin Yamashita, Kealakehe, 85
Tsuji Yuga, HPA, 89
Caleb Mekoff, Makua Lani, 89
Luke Ensey, HPA, 92
Jayden Alonzo-Estrada, Kamehameha, 97
Mike Lopez, Waiakea, 98
Corbin Warmbier, Hilo, 99
Ethan Honda, Hilo, 103
Trent McCollum, Kamehameha, 105
Mike Kitamura, Waiakea, 105 (JV)
Landen Yanagisawa, Waiakea, 111 (JV)
Darrell Ramos, Hilo, 113 (JV)
Kaena Kai Hasegawa, Hilo, 129 (JV)
Shuji Komaya, St. Joseph, 136 (JV)