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Kawaguchi takes second in flight at girls state

Courtesy of Nancy Sartor
Kelsey Kawaguchi took second in her flight of the California Junior Girls State Championship last week in Monterey.

Facing a familiar foe in the match play final, local golfer Kelsey Kawaguchi knew she needed to play extremely well to win her flight of the California Junior Girls State Championship in Monterey.

Even when she did, Ty Akabane often found a way to be just a little better Thursday.

On the fifth hole, for example, Kawaguchi said she made her best shot of the day – a 26-foot downhill putt for birdie – only to watch Akabane trump it by draining a 15-footer for eagle.

“It was really tough competition,” said Kawaguchi, a Los Altos resident.

Danville’s Akabane went on to win 2 and 1 by bagging a birdie on the 17th hole after Kawaguchi made par. Akabane totaled four birdies Thursday; her close friend Kawaguchi finished with two.

“She made more putts than I did,” said the June graduate of Los Altos High.

Kawaguchi was still proud of her performance at the 65th annual event, held over four days at the Monterey Peninsula Country Club.

“I had never made it past my second match,” said Kawaguchi, who estimated that she’s participated in the tournament six or seven times. “It’s great to finish well there my last year.”

Off to UC Irvine in the fall on an athletic scholarship, Kawaguchi survived three rounds of match play to reach the final of the Helen Lengfeld Flight. The tourney featured 64 golfers; the top 32 after one round of stroke play qualified for the Championship Flight.

Kawaguchi shot an 86 the first day, missing the top flight by two strokes. In match play, she beat Nicole Winiecki (San Jose), Misha Vega (Springville) and Stephanie Yu (Palo Alto).

“I like both, but they’re different,” Kawaguchi said of the two tournament formats. “Match play takes more focus than stroke play because you have to think about what your opponent is doing.”

The Monterey course didn’t make that any easier.

“It’s almost 6,000 yards and there are a lot of trees,” Kawaguchi said. “You have to be consistent to do well.”

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