UH-Hilo senior Jared Kinoshita looks forward to the Dennis Rose Invitational, where his good golf comes into play.
Last year, he took fourth at the three-day tournament, which starts Monday at the Waikoloa Kings’ Course.
It’s the first of two home-course tourneys for the Vulcans, who are 10th in the West region rankings. The top 10 teams qualify for super regionals.
Through three tournaments, which include eight rounds, Kinoshita has a team-leading 72.75 scoring average.
“The Dennis Rose is fun to play at Waikoloa,” said Kinoshita, a kinesiology and exercise science major from Bakersfield, Calif. “In the past, I’ve done well. It’s always a good tourney. It’s sort of our home course, and in the past, we’ve had success there.”
Kinoshita has tied for 13th, ninth, and 41st and sounded like someone who’s itching to run into a birdie binge.
“My game is OK. I’d like to be a little better,” he said. “It’s going OK, not as good as I’d like, but it’s all right.”
That’s Kinoshita’s composure kicking in while talking about his burning desire to shoot lower scores.
UHH coach Earl Tamiya knows the competitive fire that pushes his captain’s self-drive mode button.
“He’s very intense, loves to compete and wants to win all the time,” Tamiya said. “He’s a hard worker.”
He’s also well-liked and personable. Kinoshita was voted by his teammates as the Pono Vulcan last year.
“The kids all love him,” Tamiya said. “He’s our leader. He’s on top of everybody to do their part. He encourages and cares and strives for everyone to have better scores all the time.”
Over the summer, he enrolled in Serious Golf 101. Kinoshita spent time at a Las Vegas golf country club and saw how professionals treat the game with a samurai’s discipline.
“There were so many different pro guys from all levels. I tried to pick their brains,” he said. “It was the best thing I could have done for myself. They’re competitive guys and don’t like to lose. To play at that level, you have to take the game very seriously. It made me up my level and be more seriously driven.”
To be sure, he’s not some 24-hour golf robot, glued to the Golf Channel for tips. He chills out like the locals, heading to Four Miles with his teammates.
He’s also grateful, especially to Tamiya, who responded to Kinoshita’s emails and gave him a scholarship.
For Division II, the allotment for men’s golf is 3.6 scholarships, which can be sliced up like a pizza. (For D-II women, it’s 5.4.)
The best way for youngsters to gain a scholarship is to play at a prestigious national tournament, always costly with airfare and extras, shoot a low total score and wait for college offers to flood in.
Kinoshita didn’t live that lifestyle. But underdogs like him find a way. That’s their fuel for self-determination.
“Those tourneys cost so much money,” he said. “I never got to play in those big-time tourneys. I was emailing schools and not having the best of luck. They blew me off.
“Coach Earl was one of the first to contact me. Luckily, Coach Earl believed in what I could do. I’m so happy at Hilo. I don’t want to go anywhere else because of the environment.”
Despite traveling with the Vulcans to different golf courses on the mainland, Kinoshita counts the Big Island’s Nanea and Kohanaiki as his favorites.
“It’s so hard to get on, but coach Earl knows so many people,” Kinoshita said. “He’s one of the guys who started junior golf in Hawaii. It’s a treat to play there.”
He’s also hopeful to play pro golf. Before he talked about following in the footsteps of former Vulcan Dalen Yamauchi, who’s a pro in Arizona, he said something that will make his parents (Larry Kinoshita and Becky Goldfinch) quite proud.
“With travel and keeping up with classes, it’s difficult,” Kinoshita said. “But I’m trying my best to get my degree. I can’t wait for the day that I’m holding my degree.”
He can always hit up Yamauchi for career advice. Until then, Kinoshita will remember the words of wisdom from his wise old owl coach.
“The No. 1 thing coach Earl says is don’t press, just let things happen,” said Kinoshita, who has carried himself pretty far following that advice.