Golf: Brett Furutani claims final Hilo publinx spot


A second chance at a pressure putt made all the difference for Brett Furutani, who won a playoff at the U.S. Amateur Public Links championship qualifier on Monday at Hilo Muni.

Under pretty much perfect conditions, Furutani birdied the par-5 first hole to beat Chris Igawa for the third and final spot to the national publinx.

On No. 1, a 508-yard straight lane, Furutani had a better drive and landing spot than Igawa, whose second shot was partially blocked by the leftside trees.

Furutani’s approach shot was 242 yards from the pin, and he cranked his 3-wood just right and landed 25 feet from the hole.

From a minivalley below the green, Igawa chipped his third shot, and missed a following 7-foot putt for birdie. That opened the door for Furutani.

Furutani missed his first putt for eagle, but made the second — a 5-foot birdie and the biggest putt of his golfing career for the playoff win. He’s played in five publinx qualifiers, two in high school and three times after.

“I’ve never been in a situation of this magnitude,” he said. “Obviously, I was very nervous, but it was a good experience. That putt made up for my missed putt on the first playoff hole on Saturday. It was a similar scenario, and I could feel my hands shaking.”

That experience helped. Because on his winning putt Furutani looked composed and drained his 5-footer dead center.

“Golf is a big part of my life,” he said. “Playing in the publinx is something I’ve always dreamed about since I was in high school. I really hope I have to chance to go up.”

He got into the playoff by reversing a trend. Furutani, who had never qualified for the national APL, would usually shoot lower in the first 18 holes and worse in the second round.

On Saturday, his dad, Sheldon, was on the bag for the first round when he fired a 5-over 76. His mom, Claire, took over on the second 18, when he had a 74, and in the playoffs, too.

Furutani is a 2002 Waiakea graduate, and was a golfer during the school’s glory years, winning Hawaii High School Athletic Association state titles from 1998 to 2001.

Igawa is a 1998 Waiakea graduate, and he just missed being teammates with Furutani. Igawa’s senior year was the start of the Warriors’ dynasty — four consecutive state titles, and another in 2003 when both were gone.

After Saturday’s 36 holes, Furutani, Igawa (76-74—150), Kua Baltero (74-76—150), and Shaun Downie (79-71—150) tied for the third place.

“All the guys in the foursome are my friends,” Furutani said. “Shaun and Kua and I are in the same club, Rounders. Kua’s handicap is zero, Shaun a +1 and I’m a +2. That tells you where we’re all at.

“Chris has been a mentor and given me a lot of tips. I look up to him, and he’s told me what a great experience the national publinx is.”

Dalen Yamauchi (70-71—141) and Clayton Amuro (70-78—148) claimed the other two berths to the national APL, which will be held July 14-19 at Sand Creek Station Golf Course in Newton, Kansas.

Igawa and Furutani were tied after three playoff holes, and Downie was eliminated after the first playoff hole, and Baltero after the second.

Igawa will be the first alternate, in case one of the three qualifiers can’t attend. Baltero will be the second alternate.