Moanalua’s Kristina Merkle, Punahou’s girls win state titles

WAILUA — Punahou School’s girls golf team set a new state record for a team total yesterday and Moanalua High School’s Kristina Merkle won her first individual championship title in the David S. Ishii Foundation/Hawai‘i High School Athletic Association State Golf Championships at the Wailua Golf Course.

The Buffanblu shot a two-round total of 441 to break the record of 444 set by Hilo High School in 2003 and beat second-place finishers of Waiakea High School by 17 strokes. It’s also Punahou’s second team championship in as many years. The girls from Maui High School finished in third place with a total of 464.

This was Merkle’s first prep state championship title. The junior, O‘ahu Interscholastic Association champion came close two years ago when as a freshmen, she finished third.

Merkle shot a two-round total 146 (71, 75) to finish one shot ahead of defending champion Anna Jang of Punahou and third-place finisher Britney Yada of Waiakea.

“It means a lot to me because this was my first championship,” Merkle said. “My parents were calling me every day telling me they wanted me to win.”

Merkle was one-stroke back going into yesterday’s final and was paired with first-round leaders Yada and Punahou’s Alina Ching.

Merkle and Yada were battling it out, hole for hole in the front nine until Merkle eagled the ninth hole.

“It was awesome,” Merkle said. “Britney was one up before that and it just turned the tables around.”

Merkle turned in at even par and Yada was 2-over at 38.

On the 16th hole, Merkle hit her driver off the tee for nearly 240 yards into the wind, then used her 9 iron for her approach and landed on the green, five feet away from the pin.

In what should have been an easy tap-in, Merkle caught the lip of the hole and two-putted to save par.

On the par-3 17th, Yada’s drive hit the green in a good spot, but both Ching and Merkle landed in the right bunker.

Yada would go on to the final hole one-up on Merkle.

“I tried not to worry about how they were playing,” Yada said of Merkle and Ching.

But Yada had a bad lie which set up a not-so desirable finish for her.

“Kristina made birdie and I made bogey, so she won,” she said.

It was deja vu for Ching. The freshman had a rough start yesterday after holding the lead in the first round. This was the same enounter she had during this year’s Interscholastic League of Honolulu championships.

“I kept thinking it was the ILH championships all over again,” Ching said. “It was the same thing. I was leading going into the final and then I lost. But the team still won, so that’s the main thing.”

Ching finished with a total of 154 (70, 84) for 11th place.

Kaua‘i’s top finisher of the championship was the freshman and reigning Kaua‘i Interscholastic Federation champion, Kelli Oride. She finished with a 153 (77, 76) for eighth place.

This year’s runner-up Jang said her round yesterday was pretty steady.

“I would go birdie, bogey, birdie, bogey,” she said. “The last couple of holes, I three-putted, so that’s not good.”

Jang finished with a two-round total of 147 (74, 73).

“I’m a little disappointed, but my team was really supportive and we all support each other,” Jang said. “Our team did well and I’m proud of them. I think it’s a big accomplishment, what they did.”

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