Castle's Iris Kawada has four tournament wins so far this season. Its been a constant for eight years in the life of Iris Kawada. Sunday morning. A drive to Aiea from Kaneohe. Newtown Golf Driving Range. Swing after swing after swing. Once a week. Later, six times a week with her father, Alan, who recently retired from UPS. On this day, the Castle golfer gives full attention to swing coach Les Uyehara. It's the technical aspect of the game that she thrives on, which isn't too surprising for a 3.8 grade-point average student who wants to study computer programming in college.
"I had the basic mechanics, but he's added balance and posture, and that leads up to accuracy and more control," Kawada said. "I used to hunch over, but he taught me a gorilla stance. It looks funny, but it works. On a good day, I can hit it 240."
The more she learns, the better she gets. At an age, 15, when other sophomores are all about hanging out at the mall and constant texting, Kawada is winning and winning often. As a freshman, she won one tournament in OIA play and finished 30th at states, the lone girl from Castle. This year, there are four teammates, all boys, and she has won four OIA tournaments already. The best day this season was a 71, including a 34 on the back nine, on March 25 at Ted Makalena Golf Course. "It was fun. It was during spring break and I was relaxed," she said.
Kawada is just good, even great, at learning things. Like math. She is doing well in pre-calculus, so her father is looking for a calculus course she can take during the summer. It might require her to trek to UH or another campus, but she's ready for the challenge. "I understand math. I don't really like it, though," she said.
Kawada started playing golf, more or less, as a 3-year-old with her dad hitting Wiffle Balls. A Playskool club was her constant companion. Alan, who picked up the sport after high school, couldn't deny her potential."I saw her swing. I told my dad and my brother, ‘Hey, look at this.' So I knew she was a right-hander, and she was hitting that ball in the air and I used my pitching wedge to hit it back to her," Alan recalled. "Then we tried to hit each other and that's how it started."
By the time she was 7, grandpa Roy Kawada took her golfing three times a week."He was a good golfer. He shot his age. He was 72 and he shot a 70. I think it was at Makalena," she said. "We had to walk. I had to get used to walking. That was fun, the best times, when it was just for fun golf. Just hit and play."Grandpa died when she was 8, and she stopped for a short time. "She used to really enjoy herself with my father," Alan said.
Alan's brother, Dennis, became a golf mentor. He was more than just someone who drove her to the course during those years when she was 8 through 13. "That was a little bit tougher because it became competitive between those two. She would get angry, cry. He wouldn't back off on her. He would try to make her beat him," Alan said. "She didn't want to play competitive, but he'd tell her he's better than her, and that gave her the desire to beat him." She still remembers."He used to mock me, saying, ‘You can't even beat a 60-year-old man.' It used to throw me off my game, but it made me mentally stronger," Kawada said. "I was more of a competitor after that. "Today, Alan isn't sure Dennis can beat Iris anymore. "He's her biggest fan," Alan said.
That set the stage for the current state of junior golf."The competition, the talent level in Hawaii is crazy. The girls in Hawaii are so, so good. In the future you're going to see a lot of Hawaii girls making a name for themselves on the mainland," Alan said. She traveled when she was 10, playing in San Diego. But the skyrocketing cost of participating in mainland tournaments set Kawada back. Or maybe it didn't. Staying home, playing in interisland tournaments and constantly refining her skills with coaches like Lance Suzuki and Casey Nakama may have been a blessing in disguise. That hasn't simmered her longing to see the world. Japan. England. South Korea — her mother, Okyon, is Korean — remains high on her wish list.
Alan wound up as the head coach at Castle, bringing D.J. Chinen in to help run the team."I love my team this year," she said. "We finally have a boys team and they're doing really well. They're kind of like crazy, but it's good. "The Knights played for a charity in an event this season, focusing on autistic awareness. Kawada's brother, Andrew, is autistic and attends Castle. "He has zero chance of being independent, but Iris' goals are so out there. Our son's shortcomings made her stronger," Alan said. "She's often said to me, ‘This family is only happy when I do something good.' That's true, but it's a big burden. Nobody knows how hard her life was, but she made it."
Okyon is a great supporter and comes to practices, but gets too stressed out to enjoy tournaments. She's seen her daughter's ups and downs. "I feel sorry for her. So busy, all this stress," Okyon said.Mom and Iris chill out when they can. They cheer for Korea's great golfers. They love their Korean pop music and dramas. "She sings every word to all the songs," Iris said.
She'll get her travel fix this summer when she and Alan go to Pinehurst Resort (North Carolina) for a tourney. The exposure will probably help, and though she might be next in a line of tremendously talented Hawaii golfers to play at the next level, her route might be slightly different.
Ever the computer geek, Kawada wants to go to a small school and master the whole computer engineering craft. Washington University in St. Louis is one possible destination. "I would love to go to a tech school. The D-III schools are good because they have great educations," she said.
A Benefit Of Rain....Rainbows.
L-R Dean Kaya, Kaylan Ha, Micah Yamamoto Coral Creek 03.09.13 by Guy Yamamoto
L-R 3rd-Noah Koshi, 2nd-Joshua Hayashida & Champion-Jacob Torres
L-R 2nd-Kyra Tomita, Champion-Kaylee Akagi
Missing-Champion-Mari Nishiura & 2nd-Iris Kawada
L-R Champion-Spencer Dunaway, 3nd-Matthew Shen & 2nd- Sian Rogers
MAHALO CORAL CREEK!
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The 15th Annual Barbers Point Jr Open
"It started from a young boy's dream..".that young boy was Golf Professional, Don Wilburn, PGA
December 26-27, 2012
BPJO Photos by Bryan Kaneshiro & Alan Kawada
L-R 10-Under Boys-Jacob Torres, 11/12- Boys Acey Yanagishita, Don Wilburn, PGA, 15-18 Boys-Caleb Keohokapu
Missing: 13/14 Boys-Keegan Loo of Kauai
L-R 10-Under Girls-Jae eun Park, 11\12 Girls-Allysha Mae Mateo,
13\14 Girls-Mari Nishiura and
15-18 Girls-Yongcongrong "Rose" Huang
Mahalo for your Support, Mr. Paul Ogawa, PGA-Executive Director of the Hawaii State Golf Association
Player of Year
Photo by 808Golf.com
Photo by ParkerMcLachlin.com
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