Kalani’s Manta reflects on epic OIA title battle

Kalani's Miki Manta teed off on one of her 27 holes played on Tuesday to decide the OIA girls golf champion. Photo by Dennis Oda/Star-Advertiser.
Kalani’s Miki Manta teed off on one of her 27 holes played on Tuesday to decide the OIA girls golf champion. Photo by Dennis Oda/Star-Advertiser.

Kalani’s Miki Manta was the reigning Oahu Interscholastic Association girls golf champion on Monday, but by late Tuesday afternoon that title was gone.

It was swept away by her fierce rival in the sport, Kaiser’s Malia Nam. Turtle Bay was the site of what can aptly be described as an incredible performance by both players.

No hyperbole there, either.

It took a while for us to reach Manta and get her thoughts about her one-shot loss, but we did and gave her a chance to tell her tale.

During a phone interview Wednesday, one of the first things Manta said was that she has been struggling with her chipping and it continued to be a problem Tuesday. It didn’t hurt her until the very end … on the last of the 45 holes that these two girls went at it.

Her general attitude during that long, long day was to stay focused and make every shot count. Both girls continued to do that.

“I think I was, shot-making wise, a lot closer to hole,” Manta said. “It’s just that I couldn’t make the birdie putts.”

True. On nearly every playoff hole, Manta’s approach was closer to the pin than Nam’s, but Nam effectively two-putted from long distance to stay in it.

On the sixth playoff hole (Fazio’s par-5 10th), both girls ran into trouble.

They both went left along the tree line on the dog-leg right. Manta had two palm trees in the way, which was a similar position she faced earlier in the day at that hole. The first time, she chose to go over and it hit a tree and came straight down. This time, she went under it, but, coming out of a deep rough, the ball went only about 50 yards.

From there, Manta hit into a bunker fronting the green, blasted out and – despite the difficulty – could have won it by sinking a 6-foot par putt. But she missed.

“I hit a great shot out of the bunker, especially with the pin placement at the front of the green,” Manta said. “Afterward, everyone thought I was going to win there. It was an easy line, too.”

Nam was on the green in three, but three-putted from 50 feet, and that’s what kept Manta alive. Those were the only two bogeys of the playoff.

So off they went to the par-3 11th, where some serious drama occurred with the ocean for a backdrop.

That’s where Nam — a USC commit for 2018 – holed a bunker shot for a birdie and Manta – a Sacramento Sate commit — followed with a 36-foot putt to keep it tied.

“I was on the green and the next thing you know, I saw the ball (Nam’s blast out of the bunker) go in. I was surprised she made that and I was thinking I have to make this to remain in the playoff,” Manta said. “There was pressure. I just thought to myself, ‘It’s a win or lose thing. Nothing to lose at this point.’ I just took my stance, addressed the ball and just putted it. Luckily it went in the hole.”

She can say that again … and again.

Later, a friend measured it and told her it was “36 feet exactly.”

“Some other short putts were more pressure,” Manta admitted. “It was downhill, left to right. I thought for a second it was going to be short, but it kept rolling and rolling.”

More pars on the par-4 12th preceded the eventual winning hole — the par-3 15th coming back toward the clubhouse.

Manta went left of the green and a mishit on her second shot ended it for her.

“It was a lie against the grain and in the rough,” she said. “It was a case where I didn’t decide what to do (leading up to the swing) and ended up chunking it. It only went about a foot.

Like Nam a year ago after losing to Manta by one after 36 regulation holes, Manta cried.

“A little bit,” she said. “I really wanted to defend it.”

Asked if she was still down a day later, she said: “I bounced back quick, knowing that the player I was playing with is a very consistent player and I know how good she can be. Part of me was happy that I was able to last that long.”

Due to their intense focus all the way through, some spectators thought that maybe Nam and Manta do not like each other.

Not true, according to Manta, “We’re just competitive and really serious,” she said.

Nam, too, spoke about how good of a player Manta is after her Tuesday victory.

For those who want to know a bit of minutiae, the first three playoff holes were played on the par-4 ninth hole near the clubhouse. Organizers may have wanted to give the golfers some extra scenery or difficulty after that because they moved them to No. 8 and then back to 9, followed by 10, 11, 12 and the end at No. 15.

In two years and after 81 holes at the OIA championship, these two golfers are still tied. In 2016, Manta won by one when Nam missed a 12-footer for par on the closing hole.

Take a look:

2016 scores:
>> Malia Nam (Kaiser) 74-76–150
>> Miki Manta (Kalani) 74-75–149

2017 regulation scores
>> Malia Nam (Kaiser) 72-75–147
>> Miki Manta (Kalani) 71-76–147

2017 9-hole playoff scores
>> Malia Nam (Kaiser) 34
>> Miki Manta (Kalani) 35

Two-years combined scores
>> Malia Nam (Kaiser) 331
>> Miki Manta (Kalani) 331

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