A Hawaii junior golfer himself a few — OK, maybe more than a few — years back, Parker McLachlin could offer some advice to the high school players working out some nerves in Tuesday’s Hawaii Tourism Authority Pro-Junior Challenge at Waialae Country Club.
“He was just telling us to breathe,” Baldwin senior Justin Arcano said. “Take a big deep breath.”
Arcano appeared comfortable in the three-hole exhibition that paired five local juniors with five pros entered in the Sony Open in Hawaii and partnered with Camilo Villegas to win the alternate-shot competition at 2 under.
“My goal is to get here to the PGA Tour and it gives you a good taste,” Arcano said. “People think it’s a little more serious, but they way they were having fun showed that golf is still a game to play to have fun.”
The high schoolers qualified for the event through Hawaii State Junior Golf Association events and the HSJGA received a check for $10,000 from Friends of Hawaii Charities.
Arcano, who has signed with the University of Hawaii, was joined by Mid-Pacific senior Zackary Kaneshiro, Punahou juniors Evan Kawai and Claire Choi and Maryknoll junior Allysha Mateo.
With a group of schoolmates in maroon shirts following her, Mateo turned in one of the best shots of the afternoon, firing a 5-iron from 185 yards out to within 13 feet of the pin at Waialae’s par-5 18th hole.
“Just hoping for the best when it came out,” said Mateo, who committed to BYU in September.
Bryson DeChambeau’s eagle putt lipped out and Mateo tapped in for birdie to drop the duo to 1 under.
Mateo qualified for the Pro-Junior Challenge as the season points leader with a win at the King Auto Group State Championship at Hokulia lasy June, where she shot a 66.
“i was a caddie for (Moanalua graduate) Kyosuke Hara (last year) and this is something to look forward to for an HSJGA junior,” Mateo said.
Choi partnered with McLachlin, the 1996 state champion, and won the closest to the pin competition on the par-3 11th with a shot to 9 feet. Kaneshiro, playing with Rory Sabbatini, won the long drive contest (the juniors hit from forward tees) on No. 10 for the second straight year.
“Sony week is always the best and getting to know some of the pros is always the best time of the year,” said Kaneshiro, a Santa Clara signee who placed third in last year’s HHSAA championship. “Watching these guys, seeing what the potential is, it just drives me to become the best I can be.”
Kawai teamed with Tadd Fujikawa, who qualified for the Sony Open on Monday and was a late replacement for Fred Funk in the Pro-Junior event.
He was younger than most of the juniors in Tuesday’s event when he played in his first Sony Open in 2007 at age 16 and turned pro shortly after making the cut in those four life-changing days at Waialae.
“Just the opportunities I’ve had to travel the world and play and meet people, I have those opportunities no one can really take away from me,” Fujikawa said. “I’ve been very fortunate to have those opportunities to use golf as a platform.
“It’s been a tough road the past few years but having the opportunity to do the things that I have, it wouldn’t have been possible without the Sony Open.”