By Rodney S. Yap
At the end of the day, Garrett Okamura played with the confidence of a professional who knew the course like that back of his hand.
The result Sunday proved to be a two-stroke victory and the 2013 Maui Open golf title at The Dunes at Maui Lani Golf Course — where Okamura is the head professional.
“It feels so good. I can’t wait to celebrate tonight,” said the former Baldwin High School and Hilo University standout.
Okamura added a 75 on Sunday to go with his first-round 3-under-par 69, for a winning two-day total of 144. Former University of Hawaii golfer T.J. Kua, 23, was runner-up at 72-74—146, while defending champion Alex Chiarella was three-strokes behind Okamura after posting identical rounds of 74 for a 36-hole total of 148.
“It was pretty close to match play,” said Okamura, who was paired with Kua. “I felt like it was kind of one-on-one. It was nice. We had a lot of fun and personally I like that kind of situation, I like to know what’s going on, what everybody else is shooting.”
Trailing by three strokes entering play Sunday, Kua caught Okamura at No. 9, where he made birdie and the leader suffered his third consecutive bogey. But at No. 11, things flip-flopped when Okamura made his only birdie of the day and Kua bogeyed.
“I knew I had a lot of greens ground to make up and it was going to be difficult, especially on his home course today,” said Kua, who later benefited from a two-shot swing at No. 13 when he made birdie and Okamura bogeyed. “It was a task almost too difficult to get done. But I was trying to hang in there and make him work a little bit.
“I don’t really know these greens well enough and I tried to guess at some breaks out there. These greens are so tough that you need more than just a couple of days to get used to it and that was kind of the difference in my putting. Other than that, I can’t complain, I struck the ball well.”
“I had high expectations coming in,” said Seabury graduate Chiarella. “I’m slightly disappointed, but I did play well the last two days. I couldn’t get anything to drop and made three doubles in two days and you can’t do that if you’re going to win a big tournament like this. That’s disappointing, but overall its not like I gave it away. Those guys (Okamura and Kua) played really, really well the last two days.”
Dalen Yamauchi finished fourth at 75-74—149, followed by John Galarita (76-74) and Vernon Patao (73-77) at 150.
“I’ve been playing a lot and practicing a lot,” said Patao, a former Olympic weightlifter who started swinging the clubs again for the first time since high school 3 1/2 years ago. “I expected to shoot 3-over-par or better and I did that in both rounds. I prepared as much as I could and did what I could so I’m not disappointed at all. Honestly, I feel like I can keep up with these guys with hard work.”