Amateur outlasts pros at 2010 Maui Open

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Maui’s Royden Heirakuji kept his cool during the final round of the 53rd Maui Open at the Dunes at Maui Lani G.C. in Kahului, Maui, and then drained a 25-footer on the first playoff hole to win the event in an exciting come-from-behind victory over a star-studded group of Aloha Section PGA members in hot pursuit of the storied event’s three-foot tall trophy.

It was the local amateur’s first Maui Open title, and his dramatic, tournament-ending birdie dashed the hopes of three-time champion and fellow sudden-death competitor, PGA pro Brian Sasada, whose errant tee shot on the first playoff hole took him out of the mix for a needed birdie.

“Knock it in,” Sasada, the longtime Aloha Section PGA member selflessly told the 45-year-old Heirakuji, as he lined up his putt to win the title. Royden patiently assessed the putt, stood over his ball,and matter-of-factly drained the curling 25-foot slider amidst a crowd of enthusiastic onlookers

Leading up to this exciting conclusion was an almost painful ebb and flow of jockeying for the lead as golfers like Wailea pro Eddie Lee, who had a two-shoot overnight lead, struggled to make it home. In Lee’s case, it was a death of a thousand cuts as he headed down the stretch while Sasada and Heirakuji watched as his least eroded.

Kaanapali pro David Haven was even-par heading into the 13th hole before his swing went south on him off the tee and in the fairway. The noted PGA Tour coach carded an 11 on the seemingly docile par five.

In the end, the only two left standing were Sasada and Heirakuji. The first playoff hole was the par 4 first. Heirakuji’s drive found the right side of the fairway with little ore than 100-yards to the hole, which was middle-left.

Sasada uncharacteristically drove his tee shot too low, in an attempt to cut the corner, and caught a branch leaving him with an approach of over 200-yards. His 2-iron approach was above the hole and to the right, behind a bunker. Heirakuji played a wedge to the front of the green and was 25-feet from the hole. Sasada, to his credit, struck a clean pitch shot that spun so well it actually stayed above the hole, leaving the veteran pro with a tricky downhill putt to save his par.

“I’ve had that putt before,” Sasada recalled, “and I really thought I could get it done.” But his ball fell short of its mark, and opened the door for Heirakuji, who wasted no time in making the putt, in what seemed like an almost workmanlike fashion.

A former quarterfinalist at the U.S. Public Links Championship, Heirakuji is no stranger to fine play. The 1983 Maui High School graduate has competed in numerous national championships, and once shot a 66 en route to earning a berth in the 2003 SONY Open. For many onlookers, his win, was no surprise.

There were both pros and amateurs competing in this year’s Maui Open. Two other flights included pros: the Senior and Super Senior Divisions. Ironically, another amateur, Russell McGarrey would win the Super Seniors Division with a score of 150, but three pros: Hilo’s Rodney Acia, Maui Lani’s Bill Greenleaf, and Kapalua’s Dean Price would collect the cash as the low pros, at 151. Makena Pro Kirk Nelson shot a final round score of 2-under-par 70 to outlast five-time Maui Open Champion and overnight leader, Dick McClean in the Senior Division. The Maui Open also had an A-Flight for amateurs.

Calling Maui Lani his home course, 58-year-old Rick Colletto shot a net score of 134 and bested his nearest fellow competitor, Joseph Delaginte, by 13 shots. “I shot a career round for me yesterday, Colletto said of his opening round gross score of 77.

The Dunes at Maui Lani G.C. took over the mantle of hosting and sponsoring the Maui Open after the event was revived three years ago by Kahili G.C. in Waikapu. Many of Hawaii’s legendary golfers have won the prestigious event, which was first held in 1952.

The affable Bill Keogh was the last

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