Kikuchi named HSJGA Player of the Year

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Kade Kikuchi gets in some practice at the Puakea Golf Course driving range. He currently averages 260 yards and is working toward improving to the 300-yard range.

LIHUE — Kade Kikuchi of Lihue did not let the possibility of finishing tops in the boys 11-12 age group in the Hawaii State Junior Golf Association take away from his routine.

“I never thought about it,” the modest eighth grade student said. “I kept on practicing, and kept working on my game.”

Kikuchi was recently named the HSJGA Player of the Year for the division, and he will be recognized in February during the Ho‘olaulea Awards Dinner on Oahu.

“I was really happy to get the letter,” said Kikuchi, who was enjoying winter break with a practice round at the Puakea Golf Course. “I could see the points standings, but I just worried about what was in front of me, instead of what was behind me.”

Kikuchi’s grandfather, James Yamamoto, said for the young man to earn this award is quite an achievement.

“You never see Kauai players reach this kind of level,” Yamamoto said.

Kikuchi said he felt the turning point that clinched his honor came during the Michelle Wie HSGA Tournament of Champions contested at the Wailea Golf Course on Maui.

“I didn’t shoot that low, but I got enough points to lock in the lead,” he said.

Kikuchi finished the two-day tournament with a 14-over 158 (80-78), four strokes back of the eventual flight winner Ben Cafferio whom he considers to be a good friend and “always competitive.”

Other golfers making Player of the Year honors include Kate Nakaoka in the girls 7-10 division, Tristan Bayot getting the nod for the boys 7-10. Teal Matsueda was named to the girls 11-12 division.

Rachel Wang topped the girls 13-14 age group, and Joshua Hayashida got the honor for the boys 13-14.

Noah Koshi was named tops in the boys 15-18 division, and Kyung Eun Lee earned double honors after getting the girls 15-18 division and the girls 13-18 division.

Kikuchi said there are other good golfers playing on Kauai.

“There’s Jayden Kyono, who is in the boys 15-18 division, Bryan Chang in the boys 11-12 group, Liana Chang and my sister Heily who play in the under 10 group,” Kikuchi said. “My sister Heiley did pretty good for the tournaments she played in.”

Kikuchi said this is the first real big honor he’s earned since starting golf more than three years ago.

“The hardest part of golf is the short game,” he said. “My short game is decent, not the best. You have to have lots and lots of concentration because it could work on one day and be off the next.”

Kikuchi said his goal in 2019 is to shoot even, or under par golf, by the end of the year.

“This is going to be quite difficult,” he said. “I age up to the boys 13-14 flight this year, and even if the people I play with also move up, we will be playing with the 14-year-olds.”

Once he’s done with middle school, Kikuchi hopes to be accepted by Kamehameha Schools.

“If I can’t make it there, I want to play with Kauai High School in the Kauai Interscholastic Federation,” he said.

His next tournament will be in March with the HSJGA Junior Tour Series that opens on Maui.

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.

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