Golf is on the upswing at University of Hawaiʻi campuses
Mānoa teams hold promise
While still a high school golfer in Helsingborg, Sweden, Sara Odelius warranted professional consideration. Lucky for Hawaiʻi, she opted for the U.S. collegiate route. The sweet-swinging Swede became the No. 1 golfer on a fast-improving Rainbow Wahine squad in 2004.
Odelius, Dale Gammie of Pukalani, Maui, and Megan Stoddart of Sacramento, Calif., formed a freshman class that ranked third in the country. Gammie, who finished second to phenom Michelle Wie in the 2002 Hawaiʻi State Junior Golf Association, earned all-conference mention.
Odelius, who honed her skills during three years on Sweden’s Junior National team, earned first-team all Western Athletic Conference honors and was named team MVP after consistently finishing in the top 10 in spring tournaments.
"Golf is an individual sport, but the thing is, I couldn't have done this season without my teammates," Odelius says. "I think that we all have more to give, and I’m really excited for next season."
Things look good for the Warrior squad as well. All-America and first-team all-conference golfer Matt Kodama completed his eligibility, but 2002 champion Kellen-Floyd Asao will be a senior.
Head Coach Ronn Miyashiro has loaded the new roster with highly decorated recruits. Local standouts Ryan Perez and Travis Toyama both won the Mānoa Cup, the state’s top amateur tournament. Former state high school champ Jarrett Hamamoto transfers from the Air Force Academy, where he broke numerous program records. Blaine Bingham and Billy-Bob Hoyt, from Arizona, add to a promising mix of youth, talent and experience.
"This incoming class is probably the best we’ve had," says Miyashiro. "It should be an impact kind of year."
Vulcan on a hot streak
Nick Mason’s plans to play college baseball changed when some high school friends at Leilehua High School on Oʻahu encouraged him to try golf.
The UH Hilo Vulcan from Wahiawā may be on a hot streak now, but the senior’s performance didn’t pick up until the middle of his junior year. His second-place finish at the Taylor Made/Waikoloa intercollegiate tournament in February produced the best ranking ever by a Hawaiʻi golfer. In March Mason became the first amateur to win the Hilo Invitational Golf Tournament.
The following month, he shot a record-breaking second round at the Buzzini/Stanislaus Invitational in Turlock, Calif., and won a tiebreaker with Cal StateStanislaus golfer Ryan Thornberry, becoming the first UH Hilo golfer to win the tournament. He finished the year in the top five and won NCAA Division II All-America honors.
Not bad for someone who never had a golf lesson and credits baseball with helping what he calls his "homemade swing." Mason says he enjoys the independence and competitiveness of golf.
After a summer of work and golf in Oregon, he’s hoping for a shot at an NCAA Division II championship title and qualification, via the February Governor’s Cup, for the Sony Open 2005. Then he plans to turn pro. "I’m tired of passing up checks," he says with a laugh.