Kealakehe’s Yamashita could get fourth win of golf season at Hilo Municipal

BIIF golfers have one more chance this season to prove themselves as the best on the island.

On Monday, they’ll play the familiar territory of Hilo Municipal Golf Course and their biggest competition will come from Kevin Yamashita, a young Waverider looking to sweep the pandemic-shortened spring season.

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Kealakehe’s Yamashita is only a sophomore, and he’s already making a name for himself on the golf course. He’s won or tied the first three BIIF golf tournaments this year. In the past three weeks, he has shot a 75 on April 14 at Waikoloa Beach; a 74 at Mauna Lani on April 19; and a 76 last Monday, April 26, at Waikoloa Village.

His 75 at Waikoloa Beach tied Makua Lani’s Caleb Makoff.

“To me, it just shows that the hard work has been paying off,” Yamashita said. “I’ve been practicing hard the last two to three months and it shows now. I’m doing a lot better than I was the past few years.”

Luckily for the island’s high school players, the pandemic left golf courses as one of the few public places open for most of 2020, allowing Yamashita to practice and flourish this year.

“It was a lot of swing and short game changes for practice this year,” Yamashita said. “My swing wasn’t doing to well — the ball was going as far as it is now, but it wasn’t going nearly as accurate. And I needed to work on a lot of short game like putting and chipping, which until now isn’t my best, but it is at an OK level I’d say now.”

Yamashita has played a BIIF tournament at Hilo Municipal before. On March 11, 2020, he shot an 85 to come in seventh in one of the final BIIF events before the coronavirus shut down high school sports.

If his hot streak continues, Yamashita will likely beat that 85.

“The challenges (at Hilo) are they have a lot elevated areas,” Yamashita said. “They have a lot of uphills and downhills. Overall, I’d say that course isn’t too bad, it’s very fun.”

On April 26 at Waikoloa Village, Yamashita’s closest competitor was again Makoff, who finished only one-stroke back at 77. On April 19, Makoff shot a 79 at Mauna Lani, also for second place.

On the girls side, Hawaii Prep’s Isabella Rodriguez has finished in first the last three tournaments, shooting an 84 on April 14, an 88 on April 19 and an 81 on April 26.

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As a sophomore, Yamashita has a few more years left at Kealakehe, and will most likely get a chance to compete in a full season of BIIF competition next year. Going into the summer, Yamashita will continue to prepare for his next moment in the BIIF spotlight, and Yamashita’s coaches believe he’s ready for the state and national level.

“With a little bit more practice I’m sure I will be ready for that in the future,” Yamashita said.

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