Choi, Matsumoto win OIA golf titles

Apr. 17—Nate Choi of Moanalua sank a 15-foot putt on the second sudden-death hole to edge Casey Johansen of Leilehua for the OIA boys individual championship on Tuesday afternoon at Leilehua Golf Course.

Nate Choi of Moanalua sank a 15-foot putt on the second sudden-death hole to edge Casey Johansen of Leilehua for the OIA boys individual championship on Tuesday afternoon at Leilehua Golf Course.

Mililani sophomore Kady Matsumoto carded a second-round 74 to win the OIA girls title by four strokes over Mia Hirashima of Moanalua.

Mililani defended its girls team title. The Lady Trojans' lineup was comprised of Matsumoto, Kieran Florino, Kate Nakaoka, Mia Nakaoka, Brynn Yonemori and Mariko Yonemura. Mililani finished with a 463 total, followed by Moanalua (481 ), Kalani (501 ) and Kaiser (586 ).

Moanalua (606 ) triumphed in the boys team competition for a third year in a row. Na Menehune have won 15 of the past 16 boys golf team titles. The exception was in 2019, when Kalani disrupted the streak. The lineup led by Choi included Josiah Ganske, Austin Koki, Brady Lee, Gunnar Lee and Dylan Sakasegawa.

Mililani (643 ) was runner-up, followed by Kalani (672 ) and Kalaheo (678 ).

Bumpy greens played a factor for all golfers this week. The course was aerated two weeks before the tournament, leaving more than a few divots across the terrain.

"The greens were a little bumpy, but after the first day I knew that I still had a chance. I wanted to make sure I came out of the gate running rather than trying to find my swing, " said Choi, who placed third last year. "I think I did a good job of that. I played steady golf. I wanted to give myself enough chances with the amount of holes I had left. I didn't want to force anything, but I wanted to play with no regrets."

Johansen's rough patch at the end of regulation, struggling with a three-putt on 18, allowed Choi to rally and tie with a two-day tally of 6-over-par 150. Choi carded a 76 on Monday, trailing first-round leader Zaedis Yoshizawa of Kalani by two strokes. Johansen shot a 75 on Monday.

On Tuesday, Choi and Johansen parred on the first sudden death hole, No. 9. Johansen's chance to land a birdie nearly netted victory, but his 15-foot putt curled out. Choi's 15-footer allowed him to survive.

On the second sudden-death hole, again at No. 9, each drove off the tee to the left side of the fairway, close to the pathway. Choi sent his next shot beyond the hole to the edge of the green. Johansen's shot was on the short side, not quite on the putting surface.

Going uphill, Johansen then got within a few feet with a nice shot. Going downhill, Choi sank a 15-foot putt. Johansen missed his chance to par on a 6-foot putt, ending the drama.

During regulation, No. 9 had been unkind to Choi.

"I put it right into the trees. It was mostly straight downwind, " he said. "I was talking to Coach the other day. She was like, 'Stick to your plan. Fairs and greens.' A solid drive down the middle. One step at a time.'"

Choi adapted in sudden death.

"I hit two fairways. Had short irons from the fairway, which helps a lot. Then just get done in two putts, " Choi said. "I didn't play great today, but I'm glad I stuck in there."

During regulation, a late double-bogey on 7 nearly wiped Choi out.

"I kind of put myself out of it a little bit, but I stuck with it, " he said. "Casey is a hell of a player. We all go through our fair share of struggles like that."

Matsumoto shot a 77 on day one and finished with a two-day total of 151. She improved on her score Tuesday with a 2-over-par 74, and led from start to finish while most of the field posted higher scores.

"I hit all my drives on the fair today, which set me up for my second shot, " she said. "I've played here a lot, like 100 times. The ball wouldn't roll straight (on the greens ) most of the time. You just put yourself in good positions. It wasn't as windy as it usually is, so that was good."

Mililani's Kate Nakaoka carded a 73 on Monday, then departed to compete in an LPGA qualifier on the Big Island. Kahuku's sister duo of Mia and Ava Cepeda also played in the qualifier and missed the OIA championships entirely. The Nakaoka and Cepeda sisters have already qualified for the David S. Ishii Foundation /HHSAA Girls Golf State Championships on May 7-8 at Kaneohe Klipper Golf Course.

The boys state championships will be April 30-May 1, also at Kaneohe Klipper.

After one round, the boys leaderboard was packed with five golfers within two strokes of the leader, Yoshizawa. Like Johansen, Moanalua's Brady Lee was one stroke back. Lee, who won the OIA East judo championship over the weekend, finished third after shooting a 77 on Tuesday.

Johansen began playing organized golf a little more than two years ago. He picked up the sport rapidly and placed fifth in the OIA championships in 2023. Even with modest experience, his expectations for himself were high.

"Last year, I was trying to go out there and get some experience. This year, my mentality has changed. I think I can compete with everybody. This tournament, this is my home course. I really wanted that title for our school, " the junior said.

Yoshizawa (74-79-153 ), Koki and Gunnar Lee (76-77-153 ) followed. Defending OIA champion Sakasegawa of Moanalua (76-79-155 ) and Kahuku's Keola Silva Jr. (78-77-155 ) finished five strokes back.