ODA MAKES CUT WITH WALK-OFF EA­GLE

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - SPORTS - By Ja­son Kaneshiro jkaneshiro@starad­ver­tiser.com

As dusk set­tled on Wa­ialae Coun­try Club, John Oda wouldn’t let the sun set on his stay in the Sony Open in Hawaii just yet. Af­ter grind­ing through 17 holes, the Moanalua grad­u­ate stepped to Wa­ialae’s ninth tee two shots be­low the pro­jected cut line.

He saw a birdie op­por­tu­nity turn south on the pre­vi­ous green and “kind of got a lit­tle down on my­self” be­fore walk­ing to the fi­nal hole at 2 over par for the round and even for the tour­na­ment.

“But with the last hole be­ing down­wind,” he said, “if I just hit the fair­way I could give my­self a chance at it.”

Hav­ing strug­gled to find the short grass for much of the round, this time he striped his drive down the mid­dle. Stand­ing 160 yards out, he chose an 8-iron for the all-im­por­tant ap­proach shot and dropped it in­side of 6 feet, leav­ing him an ea­gle putt away from a week­end tee time.

“I was ac­tu­ally a lit­tle ner­vous over that putt,” Oda said. “Just like my last putt to qual­ify (on Mon­day), you work so hard to get to that point and to make a putt it’s al­most like you need to will it in. Just for­get about all me­chan­ics and just trust the line and will it in.”

That he did and Oda’s first ea­gle of the week pro­vided a dra­matic punc­tu­a­tion to a round of even-par 70 and his first week­end ap­pear­ance in three Sony Opens.

Af­ter a fist bump with his cad­die/man­ager, Walker Huddy, Oda hus­tled to the driv­ing range to get in a few more swings be­fore dark­ness fell. He has more work ahead of him this week­end.

“I’m just re­ally thank­ful for the op­por­tu­nity and couldn’t be hap­pier to see a lot of my friends and fam­ily and guys sup­port­ing me,” said Oda, who will tee off at 12:55 p.m. to­day with Shugo Imahira of Japan.

Af­ter plac­ing third in the Mon­day qual­i­fier at Hoakalei and an open­ing-round 68 on Thurs­day, Oda posted 11 con­sec­u­tive pars be­fore a bo­gey on No. 3 and another on No. 5 put his week­end hopes in jeop­ardy. He saved par with a 15-foot putt on No. 6 to keep him within strik­ing dis­tance with two holes to play.

In terms of clutch mo­ments, Oda said his fi­nal hole on Fri­day ri­valed his par-birdie fin­ish at last sea­son’s NCAA championships to push UNLV into the eight­team match-play field.

Oda, who turned pro in Septem­ber, said he’s been work­ing on “try­ing to be as pos­i­tive as I can and en­joy the game for that, trust the process.

“Walker, he re­ally kept me go­ing and said that I got it on that putt. He helped me be­lieve in my­self.”

Tyler Ota, Oda’s for­mer Moanalua team­mate, got out to a rough start to his sec­ond round and closed his first Sony week with a 74 for a to­tal of 4-over 144.

The 24-year-old said the week left him drained, yet antsy to get back on the range.

“Play­ing in some­thing like this gives you the bug to get bet­ter,” Ota said. “See­ing how good you can play golf at a dif­fer­ent level, it gives you motivation, it gives you some­thing to strive for. I’m tired, but I want to go prac­tice more, I want to get bet­ter.”

Ota said the Hawaii State Am­a­teur Championship in March is the next high­lighted item on his cal­en­dar. How long the three-time Hawaii State Golf As­so­ci­a­tion player of the year re­mains an am­a­teur is less cer­tain.

“Pos­si­bly” Ota said when asked if he’d con­sider turn­ing pro, “es­pe­cially play­ing this week, talk­ing with the guys out here, see­ing the kind of lifestyle they live. En­ter­tain the thought maybe, whether I pull the trig­ger or not is a dif­fer­ent story. But we’ll see.”

Eric Du­gas of Mak­ena Golf and Beach Club carded his sec­ond round of 1-over 71 to fin­ish his week at 2 over.

JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARAD­VER­TISER.COM

John Oda watched his drive off the 10th tee dur­ing Fri­day’s sec­ond round of the Sony Open in Hawaii.

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