At just 14, Cyd Okino will tee it up in the U.S. Women’s Open at Edina, Minn., June 23-29. She earned her way there by winning the Turtle Bay qualifier last week with a 36-hole total of 137 - five under par. The Punahou sophomore appeared on MidWeek‘s cover in May 2002 at the age of 9.
“I think this year is the best my game has ever been,” says Okino. “I feel pretty confident that I’m going to do really well in these tournaments.”
Since she last spoke with MidWeek, Okino feels her game has come a long way. “I gained so much more distance, and my short game got a lot better - especially my putting. My approach shot got better too, but it could be a little better.”
Okino left the Islands last Monday for Wisconsin to participate in the USGA Women’s Amateur Public Links.
“From there we go to the U.S. Open,” says a calm Okino. “It still hasn’t hit me that I’m actually going to the U.S. Open. I’m just so surprised I get to go to all of these tournaments this year.”
She adds that she struggled last year to get into the same tournaments, but this year she has been able to qualify.
Casey Nakama, Okino’s coach, says she’s doing very well for her age, and her consistency and confidence levels are improving. “For the qualifiers, everything kind of fell into place,” he says. “In this game you have to earn the confidence of playing well. The player inside has to know that they’re good enough.” There were a lot of good competitors at the qualifier, he adds, and she performed well in the heavy competition.
Okino will compete against pros like her heroes Michelle Wie and Annika Sorenstam. “I still look up to (Wie),” says Okino, noting how Wie was the youngest to compete at such a high level. “(Sorenstam) is always keeping a positive attitude. That’s what happened at the qualifier. I had a few bad shots and I just kept on going, thinking, ‘There’s more holes left and I have so much more time.’”
As for whether Okino plans to go pro or attend college, she says she’d like to play in college first and then go from there. “That’s my goal,” she says. “I may not go (to school) all four years, but I want to go to college. From there, if my game keeps getting better, then I want to turn pro.” Her top choices include Pepperdine and UCLA.
Okino says the keys to her success are her coach Casey Nakama, her parents and practice. “You have to practice a lot. You have to be dedicated,” she says.
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