Walking up to the first tee on a quiet morning in Nuuanu isn’t quite like stepping into the batter’s box in a Major League ballpark.
Even so, Kila Ka’aihue still feels that familiar energy before taking his first swing of the day.
“Any time I tee it up I still get the same juices that I had when I was playing,” Ka’aihue said. “Maybe not as much as playing in front of 50,000 people. But you still feel some nerves and you still get some adrenaline going.”
After 13 years in professional baseball that included Major League stints with the Kansas City Royals and Oakland A’s, Ka’aihue called it a career last November.
He’d taken up golf as an off-day pastime while playing minor league ball about 12 years and worked on polishing his game since leaving the diamond.
Just about a year after signing his final minor- league deal with the Miami Marlins organization, Ka’aihue is testing his game at Oahu Country Club this week and is one of the final 16 players still in contention for the 108th Manoa Cup title.
Ka’aihue edged Ryan Chang, an incoming junior at Seabury Hall, 1 up on Wednesday to win his second-round match and will face Hilo’s Dalen Yamauchi, last year’s tournament runner-up, today at 7:08 a.m.
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He’s done it well enough so far to advance to today’s round of 16 in the Hawaii State Amateur Match-Play Championship.
Ka’aihue parred 12 of his first 13 holes on Wednesday and went 3 up with a birdie on No. 14 before holding off Chang’s comeback bid.
Defending champion Tyler Ota also advanced on Wednesday by pulling out a 2-and-1 win over Glenn Niitani.
Ota was 1 down after 13 holes, evened the match by sinking a 7-foot birdie putt on No. 14 and took the lead on No.
15 after sticking his approach to 6 feet.
“These close matches I feel give you more character, more confidence knowing you can pull it out,” Ota said.
“I wasn’t playing bad, I just wasn’t making a lot of putts.
It definitely gives me confidence going into tomorrow knowing I can just stay calm and fight the storm.”
Ota is the lone past champion remaining after four-time winner Brandan Kop and 2012 champion Matthew Ma were eliminated on Wednesday.
Chaminade junior Mark Uekawa edged Kop 2 and 1, taking the lead with a birdie on the par-3 16th hole.
Isaac Jaffurs, the tournament runner-up in 2014, birdied No. 17 to hold off Ma 2 and 1.
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