ODA MAKES CUT WITH WALK-OFF EAGLE
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.
John Oda watched his drive off the 10th tee during Friday’s second round of the Sony Open in Hawaii.