A different kind of homecoming

Kamehameha’s T.J. Kua returns to Kaua‘i for final state tourney

By Lanaly Cabalo – THE GARDEN wISLAND

T.J. Kua of Lihu‘e has been to the state golf championships several times before and the past two times, he’s finished as the runner-up.

Last year, Kua and Honokaa High School’s Sean Maekawa shared the first-round lead at 67, but Kua dropped in the second to finish with a two-round total of 139. It was still a low enough score to lift Kamehameha Schools Kapalama to a team title — its first state title in five years and its second in prep history.

At this year’s Interscholastic League of Honolulu championships, Kua got another second-place finish. This time it was to Alex Ching of Punahou.

One shot separated Kua from Ching going into the second round, but Kua was able to tie when he eagled No. 9. The two would go on to battle it out all the way to No. 18, when Kua caught a bad break and bogeyed the hole, dropping him to the second-place finish.

Kua said that finishing second-place so often can be disappointing for a brief while after the tournament, but it’s not that bad.

“At least I know I was close,” he said.

But his rollercoaster ride at the ILH tournament was similar to his regular season. The 18-year-old senior lefty, who has already accepted a golf scholarship to the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, said he had a rough start this year.

He’d switched to an older set of clubs and changed his putter to hopefully improve on his game. He did for the second half of the season, but credits most of his improvement to his mental focus on the game.

His strongest shot so far has been his approach. He said he’s focused on that so he can give himself a good opportunity to get on the green.

So this year, in approaching the David Ishii/Hawai‘i High School Athletic Association Boys State Championships at the Wailua Golf Course, the senior who has spent the last four years dorming at the Kamehameha campus said he will not be fixed on the result.

“I’m just going to try to please myself (with my game),” he said. “I’m not going to say I want to win it. If I please myself with how I played, that should be good enough.”

He is happy, though, that the championships will be at Wailua.

“It’s a good way to end my high school career. It’s a good homecoming for me,” he said.

The championships start today with Kua teeing off at 9:06 a.m. on the No. 10 tee.

T.J. Kua

Age: 18

Started playing golf:

3 years old

School: Kamehameha Schools Kapalama

Hometown: Lihu‘e

Best round at Wailua: 65 two years ago

Favorite golfer/inspiration: David Ishii

College: Signed with University of Hawai‘i

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