Triumphant return: Back in swing, Waiakea’s Uchida savors win at American junior event

  • Waiakea’s Lacey Uchida lines up a putt on the 18th hole green during Round 2 of the HHSAA state golf tournament at Waikoloa Kings’ Course. (Rick Winters/West Hawaii Today)

Lacey Uchida was itching to get back on the golf course after last playing competitively in winning the Hawaii state amateur in March.

No rust held the Waiakea senior back when she won the Kyle Stanley Championship over the weekend. She finished with an even-par 109 total to win by a stroke over Washington’s Claire Xu and Kennedy Knox in Gig Harbor, Wash.

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It was Uchida’s first win on the American Junior Golf Association circuit in her third AJGA event. She shot a 73 and 34 in the shortened tournament at Canterwood Golf and Country Club.

“It felt great to win,” she said. “It was my first tournament in a long time. It was nice to be out there.

“It was shortened due to fog. We had a 3½-hour delay and couldn’t see 50 yards in front of us. We played only nine holes on the second day.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the sports world in March, Uchida hit balls at home, drilling balls into a net and practicing on a putting mat.

The state of Washington is quarantine free, so Uchida was able to fly in and play. When she returned home, she’s restricted to follow a 14-day quarantine, but it’s a good thing that Waiakea has virtual school.

The tournament is sponsored by Stanley, a PGA golfer, who is from Gig Harbor. He’s a two-time winner on the PGA Tour.

“I knew I had to birdie two or three of the last hole to break even,” Uchida said. “I birdied 16, lipped out at 17 and had a 14-foot putt for birdie on 18. Luckily it went in.

“The course is very tough, no straight holes. It’s really windy and slanted and has three-tiered greens. It’s kind of like Mauna Kea. It’s strictly target golf.”

There’s an upgrade at an AJGA event, which boast competitive fields.

“It’s a really big field. It’s a nationwide event,” Uchida said. “AJGA has all 50 states. The competition is very tough.

“But I knew a lot of them going in. You definitely can’t count any of them out.”

The victory earned Uchida exemptions to AJGA events, and she’s looking for something in December.

There’s no telling on the future of BIIF golf.

In 2019, Waiakea won the HHSAA title and Uchida placed third. Last year was wiped out due to the pandemic and it’s a big uncertainty about Uchida’s senior season in 2021.

But at least she signed with Colorado State. She doesn’t have a planned major yet but knows she’ll be a good fit as a Ram.

“The coach (Laura Cilek) is so nice. She treats her players like a huge family,” Uchida said. “There’s good chemistry and amazing facilities. I know I’ll be taken care of when I get up there.”

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Before school started, Uchida and her sister, Kaelyn, played golf with their grandfather Wally Uchida and his friend Raymond Kan.

“We’d play every Thursday,” she said. “It was really fun and challenging, too.”

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