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Hilo Invitational: Nick Mason smokes field to win tournament

August 4, 2014 - 12:05am

As he was finishing his dissection of Hilo Municipal Golf Course, Nick Mason exhibited one brief moment of mediocrity.

He lost focus on No. 17 and took an infuriating double-bogey, calling it a lesson learned for a later day.

But he’ll probably never have to put it to use here: This is the Hilo Invitational, and Mason is its master.

The former University of Hawaii at Hilo golfer finished with another sizzling round, claiming his fifth title by turning in a tournament-record 16-under after a 6-under 65.

“Every win helps a lot,” said Mason, who pocketed $5,000. “I need this a lot. We need every little bit, and a win is a win, excluding the money. It helps your confidence, it helps going forward.”

“And I think this year, professionally-wise, was the best field in Hilo (Invitational) history.”

Hilo Muni was still abuzz about Mason’s 61 on Saturday. Tournament co-chair Kevin Hayashi announced the winner as the “Nick Mason Hilo Invitational champion.”

Mason called it his best two-day run at Hilo Muni.

“It’s not even close,” he said.

Nor was the tournament. Mason finished six strokes ahead of Max Bonk (66), a Hawaii Preparatory Academy graduate, while Jake Grodzinsky (67) came in at 7-under.

And somewhere, UH-Hilo men’s golf coach Earl Tamiya was smiling.

UH-Hilo senior Corey Kozuma closed with a 69 to take the amateur title at 2-under, one shot better than another former Vulcan, Isaac Jaffurs.

“For two Vulcans to win, that’s huge,” Mason said. “Earl should be really proud.”

He started his assault by making an 8-foot birdie on No. 1. And it wasn’t just another putt. Mason said he savored its speed and center-of-the-cup accuracy and used it as a confident-booster as he birded five of the first six holes to pull away.

“It was kind of fun to watch,” said Bonk, who won $2,500. “We were just kind of there to watch, but you try to shoot as low as you can. Unless he makes a mistake, you can’t catch him because he’s so far out there.”

Ahead by nine strokes, Mason was flirting with another 10-under until his double-bogey on the par-5 No. 17. The “7 ” was a lonely number on his scorecard. Mason made either birdie or eagle on his other seven par-5 tries in the tournament.

“You know what that taught me?” he said. “You cannot let the foot off the gas for one second. You can’t let that happen, even if you’re leading (big). You’ve got to learn that one day if I was tied for the lead, you can’t let your mind wander or that happens.”

But he added: “Even if your mind wanders to France, you can’t mess that (lead) up.”

Waimea’s Bonk, a former winner at the Kona Open, picked up steam on the back nine, making five birdies during a seven-hole stretch.

Bonk has played in pro tournaments in Japan, but he works at Four Seasons Resorts Hualalai and tries to play in as many Hawaii tournaments as he can.

“I didn’t play golf until a week before I came here,” he said. “After work, I got a few chipping sessions in before it got dark.

“I came over here and used the pro-am as a practice round and to loosen up.”

Former champion Jarett Hamamoto closed with a 70 and was at 6-under in fourth. Jared Sawada (73), who played in the final threesome, was another three shots back in fifth.

Kozuma, who tied for sixth overall, scored his second come-from-behind amateur victory of the summer and earned a $750 gift certificate.

He was disappointed by his performances at the NCAA Division II championships and the Manoa Cup, but he won the Barbers Point Invitational on Oahu in July.

After a bogey on No. 16 and three-putt bogey on No. 17 on Sunday, an eagle on No. 1 proved to be the turning point.

“These past two tournament have been great,” he said “Mentally, I’m a lot stronger than I was before. I could win with not my best stuff. And when I play well, I’m confident I’ll be in contention.”

Kozuma has exhausted his eligibility as a Vulcan, and he’s on pace to graduate with a degree in business marketing after the fall semester.

His goal is to turn pro at some point and emulate the best golfer the Vulcans have churned out to date.

“I got in touch with (Nick Mason) my sophomore year, and he helped get me where I needed to be and elevate my game,” Kozuma said. “I definitely want to try and play like he’s doing right now.

“I feel like my game is getting better, but I’m not on that level yet where I can compete and be successful like Nick.”

Ciera Min (2-over) was the top female finisher, tying for 16th.

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