For eight playoff holes, Kaiser’s Malia Nam and Kalani’s Miki Manta went shot for shot and toe to toe at the Turtle Bay Fazio Course on Tuesday.
And on the ninth extra hole, there was finally a decision. Nam two-putted from about 25 feet for par and it took Manta three shots to get on to the green on Fazio’s par-3 15th.
Despite hitting a fat second-shot from the left of the green, Manta nearly kept it tied. On her third do-or-die shot, she pulled out a putter from just off the green and sent it within an inch of the cup … but 5 feet past, handing the OIA championship to Nam.
It was a relief for Nam, who lost to Manta by one in the same event a year ago. Nam, a junior, also won the title as a freshman and can become a three-time winner as a senior next year. But, guess what? Manta will also be a senior.
Nine playoff holes? Doesn’t happen often at any level.
“She played great,” Nam said about Manta. “I have not played a 9-hole playoff before and I’m sure she hasn’t either.”
Both golfers were tied at the top of the field of league golfers at 3-over 147 after two 18-hole rounds Monday and Tuesday.
For the first hole of the playoff, they went and replayed the closing hole (Fazio’s par-4 No. 9).
And, then, due to recurring pars, they played No. 9 twice more as the clubhouse gallery waited for someone to make a mistake.
A decision was made to send the playoff to the par-3 eighth hole. Same thing. Par-par.
No. 9 (for the fourth time in the playoff) followed, and then they crossed the road to par-5 10th — playing tough on the day into a stiff wind.
Then came the par-3 11th, an uphill hole facing the ocean. And in an incredible display, Nam birdied by blasting out of a trap in front of the green.
Match over? Not yet.
Manta stepped up to her approximately 40 footer and it went straight in.
There were hoots from the modest gallery of teammates, coaches and parents on both of those shots.
But still no answer.
Rewind a little to the second playoff hole when a reporter said to a photographer, “This could go five or six holes.”
That estimate was a little light. These golfers were on fire. Their golf balls were green magnets and avoided big trouble.
More pars at the par-4 12th didn’t get it done, so they stepped up to another par-3, Fazio’s No. 15, where there was finally some closure.
When it was over, Manta appeared sad, not unlike Nam’s demeanor after losing last year.
Nam was thrilled and mobbed by teammates.
“I’m so tired,” she told them.
Prior to that, when both girls were about to finish the regulation 36 holes before the playoff, it was hard to get a read on who was ahead. Even their two playing partners didn’t know they were still tied at the closing hole.
The four or five spectators watching them on the last few regulation holes didn’t know either.
They understandably didn’t want to break either girl’s concentration by asking. And there are no PGA-tour style leaderboards in high school golf.
They both went to the scoring table to sign their cards, where the tie was revealed. Not one person at Turtle Bay awaiting the outcome could have imagined it wouldn’t be decided until nine holes later.
Last year, they went 36, with Manta winning by one. This year, they went 45 with Nam winning by one.
It’s hard to imagine them topping it next year, but the way they compete against each other, don’t be surprised if it turns out close again.