Patao Defends Aloha Golf Title With Late Surge
By Rodney S. Yap
Vernon Patao used a straight-and-narrow approach over the weekend to claim his second Maui Aloha Golf Tournament title in as many years.
Patao birdied two of the final three holes Sunday at the Elleair Golf Course defending the inaugural championship he won in 2012. The former two-time Olympian in weightlifting played with Shark Ikeda, Jon Yokouchi, and Eric Molina.
Patao made the outcome official with a 16-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole.
The former two-time Olympian in weightlifting played with first-round leaders Eric Molina, Shark Ikeda, and Jon Yokouchi on Sunday. Patao finished with an even-par 72 to go with his first-round 77 at Kaanapali Kai on Saturday. His gross low score of 149 was two strokes better than the 75-76—151 Molina shot. Ikeda was next at 77-77—154 and Yokouchi was one stroke back at 76-79—155.
Veteran women’s golfer Mia Hew won the women’s division with a 154 total, posting identical rounds of 77. Hew ran away with the coveted women’s gross champion trophy as Ernette Asato was her closest competitor at 76-86—165.
Patao was happy to defend his title, but did not expect to play well since a pair of work-related trips to the mainland — San Jose, Calif. and Alabama — did not allow him to practice like he usually does.
“The last time I played golf was on the mainland two weeks ago,” said the Maui Fire Fighter. “When I came back I was playing lousy so I knew I had to grind it out.”
“The first day at Kaanapali, I played like crap. The greens I normally practice on in Central Maui, like at Waiehu, is much slower than the greens at Kaanapali . . . so I three-putted five times and had one OB.”
Despite his first-round troubles, Patao was only two shots behind first-round leader Jimmy Aganos’ 75.
“I checked the wind report for Sunday at Elleair, so I knew it was going to be a little windy. At that point, my strategy was to keep the ball in the fairway and try and keep the game as simple as I can — just make pars.”
Patao made three birdies and four bogeys on Sunday, starting the back nine 1-over-par for the tournament.
“I figured if I could keep up with the guys in my group I would have a legitimate chance.”
“That’s when I had to be a little more focused and started grinding it out one stroke at a time.”
Going into the back nine Patao had even things up with Molina and Yokouchi. The logjam at the top would make for a dramatic match-play feeling down the stretch.
On the 14th, Patao said he hit his ball into the water hazard, but scrambled to make bogey.
On the 15th, Patao said “everybody hit the green and I was forced to scramble again to make another bogey.”
At that point, Patao was one shot behind Molina with three holes to play.
On the par-5 16th hole, Patao wowed his group and onlookers, hitting driver-driver to within 50 feet of an eagle. Molina, meanwhile, drove his ball out of bounds and Yokouchi hooked a shot into the bushes. Both players scrambled to make bogey, while Patao’s tap-in gave him a birdie-4.
On the next hole, the 17th, Patao said he made an easy par.
Since they were playing from the short tees, Patao said he used a very conservative approach throughout his final round, choosing to hit irons off the tee 50% off the time.
“I wanted to keep the ball low and stay out of trouble. But it was difficult, because on several holes I was 80 yards behind the other guys.”
At the 18th and final hole of the two-day, 36-hole tournament, Patao thought he was tied with Molina and even-par for the tournament. His second shot landed 16 feet from the hole, leaving him an “uphill, right-to-left putt” to clinch the tournament.
“I knew in my mind that I needed to make that putt to win the tournament,” Patao said. “I watched the other guys putt so I had an idea of how it was going to break . . . and I made sure I didn’t leave it short.”
Patao saved his best for last, drilling the dramatic 16-foot birdie dead center for the victory.
“For me it was a big win because I felt I wasn’t playing on top of my game and I had to grind it out.”
Low-net winners were in A-Flight were Roy Anderson (72—137), followed by Jimmy Aganos (72—139), James Ferreira (68—141) and Stephen Molina (70—141). B-Flight winners were Rodney Villanueva (64—138), followed by Rich Dods (64—140), and Mike Davis (72—145).
In the women’s division, net awards went to Ernette Asato (77—147), Lynn Rattay (80—150) and Ann Nagakawa (79—153).