Kei Kita may have been inches away from elimination on the 16th green at Lincoln Park Golf Course on Thursday, but that didn’t stop him from urging opponent John Hasse’s 10-foot putt to take one final rotation and tumble into the cup.
The ball didn’t drop, but on the following hole, Hasse clinched an amazingly amicable title match to win the championship flight of the 79th San Francisco Junior Golf Tournament. The two players traded encouragements throughout the day before Hasse’s tap-in two-putt on the 17th hole gave him the 2 and 1 match-play victory.
“I wanted to play him at his best level and I would never wish the worst on anyone,” Kita said. “He does the basics real well — fairway, green, one- or two-putt. And guys like that are tough to beat.”
Hasse returned the compliment and said that he and Kita had built a bond by playing four of the five rounds together throughout the three-day tournament. He did add, however, that the familiarity contributed to his strategy midway through the final.
The two players were all square entering the eighth hole, when Hasse noticed Kita showing signs of fatigue and using woods off the tee. Hasse continued to hit irons and was still able to drive just as far as Kita, which he felt provided a little bit of a psychological advantage. Hasse then took control of the match by winning three of the next five holes — including making a 30-foot putt on the 11th — and did not drop another hole for the remainder of the match.
“Kei’s a smaller guy and it seemed like he was getting a little tired,” Hasse said. “By hitting my irons and driving it to where he was hitting his woods, I felt like that would give me a little bit of a mental edge.”
It was Hasse’s third career tournament win and the 17-year-old Berkeley resident joins legendary PGA Tour figures Johnny Miller and Ken Venturi on the championship trophy.
“To think of names like Johnny Miller and hear about the history, it’s really nice to be a part of that history,” Hasse said. “I was trying not to think about it out there, but it’s exciting.”
Hasse was joined in the trophy room by nine other male winners. In the 16- and 17-year-old division match play, Ben Jackson won the first flight, Zack Chinn won the second flight, Dominick DeMartini captured the third flight and Daniel Romero claimed the fourth flight. Also in match play, Amol Mahal earned the 14- and 15-year-old first-flight title while Noah Sheikh took the second flight.
In stroke play, Jonathan Garrick fired a second-round 69 to force a three-way playoff and then outlasted Patrick Soli and Nicholas Noya for the title. In nine-hole stroke play, Harrison Hsieh carded a two-round total of 73 to earn the
10- and 11-year-old division, while Justin Goh shot an 88 over the two days to win the 9-and-under bracket.