Watabu brothers head up public links qualifier

He caddied for his older brother in the U.S. Open Sectional Qualifier at the Po‘ipu Bay Golf Course on Monday. And now, Kellen Watabu will be off the bag and on the tee to battle his brother Casey and 13 others in an amateur public links qualifier tomorrow morning at the Wailua Golf Course.

“We play 36 rounds on Saturday and the winner qualifies for the national championship in Washington,” Kellen said. “My goal is to beat him (Casey) of course. He’s big competition. This whole week we’ve been playing. I’m just going to try my best.”

On Saturday night, Kellen leaves for Las Vegas for an American Junior Golf Association tournament.

Kellen is heading to the University of Nevada-Reno in the fall on an almost full golf scholarship.

Meanwhile, Casey is done with his Wolfpack golf career, but still has one more semester before he graduates with a biology degree.

“He’ll be playing in golf tournaments and trying to make it to the next level,” Kellen said of his older brother.

Casey ran away with numerous postseason awards, which keep coming his way.

He earned 2nd team All-WAC, NCAA Southwest Regional honors, and NCAA Honorable Mention All-American accolades.

Casey and Kellen will be squaring off against other accomplished golfers on Saturday.

Tournament director Art Fujita announced the list of players, who will be teeing off from 6:12 a.m. tomorrow.

Jeff Kirschenmann and Ben Ellsworth lead the group and will be followed by Michael Oride and Layne Morita (6:20 a.m.), Chris Caycayon and Kellen Watabu (6:28 a.m.), Clesson Pang and Jonathan Ota (6:36 a.m.), Darrin Furusho and Peter Sirois (6:44 a.m.), Patricio Viernes and Casey Watabu (6:52 a.m.), and Travis Toguchi, Eric Wortmann, and Mark Morioka (7 a.m.).

“All participants are advised to be at the golf course 30 minutes before their starting times,” Fujita said.

According to the official United States Golf Association Amateur Public Links Web site, the championship is open to amateur golfers who, since January 1, 2006, have been bona fide public course players and have not held privileges at any course that does not extend playing privileges to the general public, or privileges of any private club maintaining its own course, and have a USGA Handicap Index not exceeding 8.4.

This year’s championship will be held at the Gold Mountain Golf Club in Bremerton, Washington, on July 10-15.

The U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship has been an unqualified success since its inception in 1922, giving exposure to many public-course players who otherwise might not have an opportunity to compete in a national championship. The inaugural event drew 140 entrants, with less than half wearing golf shoes. Today, the APL attracts as many as 6,000 entries. While a majority of the field comprises high school and college students, the event still attracts bus drivers, bartenders, firemen, waiters, riveters, engineers and college professors.

The competition also has been a springboard to professional success for players such as U.S. Open champions Ed Furgol, Tommy Bolt and Ken Venturi; British Open champion Tony Lema; PGA Champions Dave Marr and Bobby Nichols; and Masters winner George Archer.

Billy Mayfair and reigning champion Ryan Moore are the only players to have captured the U.S. Amateur and APL titles, the latter doing it in the same year.

Carl Kauffmann of Pittsburgh, Pa., is the only player to have won the APL three times, doing so in consecutive years from 1927-29. Seven others have won it twice, including Moore.

Former APL winners who have gone on to professional careers include Jodie Mudd, Billy Mayfair, David Berganio Jr., Tim Clark, Trevor Immelman, Hunter Haas, D.J. Trahan and Brandt Snedeker. Former APL runners-up include Chris Riley and Ben “Bubba” Dickerson, the 2001 U.S. Amateur champion.

For more information, contact Art Fujita at 822-4158.

• Duane Shimogawa Jr., sports editor, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 257) or kauaisports@kauaipubco.com.

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