WAILUA — Everyone in the state knows that the Red Raider boys golf team is the team to beat this year — even if you were hiding under a divot.
“In reality, we look for the state (tournament). Of course we’d like to win again and I think we have enough quality boys to do it,” Kaua’i coach Winston Ogata said.
And when he says quality, it starts with last year’s top boys golfer throughout the state in Kellen Watabu, who dominated in Maui to lead the Red Raiders to their second straight state championship.
But Watabu won’t be playing in today’s match because he is competing at a state publinks event on O’ahu.
However, the Red Raiders will still have more than enough amo to fill Watabu’s big shoes.
Kaua’i returns top contenders like Chad Nonaka, Mike Garcia, and Nikko Tacsiat, along with Micah and Wiley Yoshioka. Ogata also said to look out for freshman Cory Oride.
On the girls side of the greens, Miki Ueoka, Rae-Lyn Morikawa, Angel Miyake, and Kristi Rapozo field a strong unit that’s favored to win the KIF title.
Out in Warrior land, coach Fred “Mr. Steelers” Levinthol fields a team of 12 boys and four girls.
His son Jet, along with Travis Toguchi, and newcomers Bronzan Winters, Connor Dreisch, and Kevin Wataya hold down the top five spots for Kapa’a.
Assistant coach Gary Saiki comes in to take care of the girls squad, who is led by Malia Saiki.
“We’re looking okay. We’re hoping to contend with Waimea. Kaua’i is so tough. They’ve got the returning boys state champion (Watabu) and they got a lot of good returnees. We’re looking better than last year,” Levinthol said.
The Menehune bring 12 “very active” players to the course this season, led by Noel Torres, Markland Soliva, Ryan Gusman Thad Fuji, Grant Paiste, Leslyn Ibara, and Megan Iguchi.
Coach Mariano Torres likes the improvements he’s seen out of his group of players so far this year.
“They’ve been getting better everytime we go out. I don’t know what to expect. I just tell them to use your heads, play the golf course and take it slow,” Torres said.
His son Noel is ranked fifth amongst KIF boys, according to last year’s scoring chart.
“He’s (Noel) the one that plays year round and tournament golf,” Torres said.
The West Kaua’i Medical Center/KVMH doctor is stirring up youths’ interest in the game of golf by starting up the club called, “Hui Kolepa,” which stands for golf playground.
“We have around 40 kids that are interested. We just want to give them other things to do than drugs. Right now we just don’t have enough volunteer staff members,” Torres said.
Meanwhile, Kula’s Sean and Cyrus Ogawa hope for individual state tournament berths this year and fourth year coach Ryan Kempski is optimistic about their chances.
“Sean is a given and I’d be disappointed if Cyrus doesn’t make it to the state tournament. I expect Sean to be in the top three or four in every match this season,” Kempski said.
KIF golf kicks off today at 11:30 a.m., weather permitting at the Kaua’i Lagoons Mokihana Course.
- Duane Shimogawa Jr., sports editor, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 257) or firstname.lastname@example.org.