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11-Year-Old Wins Match Play Golf

June 30, 2001

HONOLULU (AP) _ Eleven-year-old Stephanie Kono shot her first hole-in-one Friday to become the youngest winner in the history of the Hawaii State Women’s Golf Association Match Play Championship.

Kono, of Honolulu, won the title by beating a player more than twice her age, former University of Hawaii golfer Desiree Ting, 6 and 5, at the Oahu Country Club.

``I like golf because it’s very challenging,″ said Kono, who enters the sixth grade in the fall. ``And sometimes relaxing. But not today.″

Kono’s ace came on the 220-yard, par 4 ninth hole.

She drove the ball about 12 feet from the pin, and the ball rolled up the green and dropped in.

``I felt surprised,″ Kono said. ``It was so shocking I couldn’t even think at that time. And then after that, everything started going my way, so it was very lucky.″

But Kono didn’t celebrate her shot. Instead she birdied the 10th hole to go 4-up.

Ting, 23, said she mentally broke down.

``Stephanie is so young, she doesn’t get nervous,″ Ting said. ``I didn’t get nervous until I played in college. When I was young, I thought I was invincible.″

Kono’s caddie and teaching pro Kevin Ralbovsky described her as unflappable.

``She’s one of the rare talents,″ he said. ``Her demeanor is very calm and she doesn’t have too many highs or lows. She doesn’t get rattled.″

Young female golfers have dominated Hawaii’s golf scene recently.

Eleven-year-old Michelle Wie, a schoolmate of Kono’s at Punahou School, won the Jennie K. Wilson Invitational in May, and this month became the first female to qualify for the 94-year-old Manoa Cup _ the men’s match play championship.

Wie last week lost in the third round of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links in Long Grove, Ill.

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