Golf: Dalen Yamauchi wins final Hilo publinx championship qualifier


Maybe it was meant to be for Clayton Amuro, who has played 10 times in the U.S. Amateur Public Links championship qualifier, got really close twice, but never reached the national tournament.

Or maybe his niece, Gonzaga upcoming sophomore Ciera Min, was his lucky charm. It’s the first time Min, a 2013 Waiakea graduate, was on her uncle’s bag.

In the last publinx qualifier at Hilo Municipal Golf Course, Amuro, the 54-year-old with the self-taught swing, saw his persistence finally deliver something special.

He fired a 6-over-par 70-78—148 to claim one of the three spots to the last APL national championship, which will be held July 14 to 19 at Sand Creek Station Golf Course in Newton, Kan.

Under overcast gray clouds with a swirling wind and fast greens, UH-Hilo senior-to-be Dalen Yamauchi captured medalist honors with a 1-under 70-71—141 total.

Hilo dentist Chris Igawa (78-74—150), Kua Baltero (74-76—150), Brett Furutani (76-74—150) and Shaun Downie (79-71—150) tied for the third place.

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

Then darkness hit the course. Igawa and Furutani are scheduled for another playoff at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the Hilo course. The runner-up will be the first alternate, and Baltero the second alternate.

Igawa has played in 13 publinx qualifiers, and advanced to the national APL five times.

It’s the third consecutive time Yamauchi has qualified for the national APL, two shy of 2007 Honokaa graduate Sean Maekawa’s record of five in a row.

The United States Golfing Association will retire the 49-year-old APL after the 2014 season. The women’s WAPL will also be retired.

Nani Yanagi, a 2012 Waiakea graduate and Washington State upcoming junior, will play in the publinx qualifier Monday on Kauai.

Her brother, Pono Yanagi, an upcoming Kamehameha eighth-grader, was one shot from joining the playoff. He bogeyed the last hole, and had a 73-78—151 total.

Four-ball national tourneys will replace both publinx tourneys.

Amuro has twice been one shot from a national APL spot. He’s been second twice and third twice at the Big Island Amateur Championship.

Min shot a 151 and overcame a four-shot deficit at Mauna Lani Resort last year to win the Big Island Amateur, becoming the first female champ in the 90-history of the tournament.

Amuro finished runner-up with a 152.

“It was something special to have Ciera on the bag with me. It’s the first time,” Amuro said. “It was great having family together. She has a lot of talent.”

“I started golf when I was 12 years old, and started in junior golf, but we didn’t have lessons like the kids today. It’s really sad we can’t have this tourney.”

Amuro showed his toughness on the final back nine. On holes Nos. 14 and 15, he bogeyed. Then he put together three consecutive pars.

Over those last five holes, Yamauchi, in the same group, punched in a clock of consistency. He went par, par, par, birdie and final-hole par.

He noted that his ball-striking wasn’t all that crisp. But that skill is down the list from his most valuable trait: his course management.

“When things got bad, I’d keep going and try to make par, have good misses and try to make my mistakes playable for par,” said Yamauchi, who noted two safe putts are always better than three. “I’d try to make good misses, and get par. I made a lot of pars out there.”