As scores rose like the Arizona heat and putts ran awry on the dry, hardened greens at Wigwam Golf Course, Dalen Yamauchi stayed calm and in control.
As a result, the University of Hawaii at Hilo junior distanced himself from the rest of the field at the Pacific West Conference golf championships.
Yamauchi carded a 3-under 69 on Monday to take a three-shot lead and vault the Vulcans in front on a bizarre first day in Litchfield Park, Ariz.
“It’s one of my better rounds,” Yamauchi said. “It was tough out there and I had to work hard.”
Yamauchi got to 5-under before he hit the water on No. 17 and took a double bogey. Still, he had little to complain about after a steady round that included seven birdies.
Whereas many golfers fell prey to the fast and hard greens, UH-Hilo coach Earl Tamiya said Yamauchi did a better job than anyone of hitting shots close to the pins, which set up makeable birdie putts.
“I think for me the key was I had the right mind-set,” said Yamauchi, a Waiakea High graduate. “When I needed to make par, I made par. I didn’t try to do too much.
“I cleared my mind and just played at my tempo. Things fell into place for me.”
And for some of his teammates as well. The Vulcans shot to an eight-shot lead at 5-under 293. BYU-Hawaii was second, and Grand Canyon and Dixie State were tied for third at 302.
Jamie Hall was in a four-way tie for second at 73, and Corey Kozuma was another shot back in a group of five. Kyeton Littel and Chris Shimomura each shot 77.
The day wasn’t without controversy. The first 18 holes of what was supposed to be a 36-hole day were scrapped after they were completed because of what the PacWest called “a failure to properly set the golf course for competition.”
The veteran coach Tamiya said he’d never quite seen anything like it. The shortened tournament will wrap up with 18 holes today.
Yamauchi was among those who benefited after essentially getting a mulligan on his 74.