U.S. Girls' Junior: Tiny Koga has big dreams
OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. – Thermometers at Olympia Fields Country Club are dangerously close to hitting triple digits. It’s 99 degrees here and feels more like 108. But until the seventh hole of the Round of 32 at the U.S. Girls’ Junior, 15-year-old Eimi Koga (pronounced Amy) carried her own clubs.
Despite the extra effort, a very petite Koga had Purdue signee Auroroa Kan 2 down when she got a little help from Marcus Corpuz, dad to Allisen Corpuz (who fell in the first round of match play). Kan spent the remaining holes steadily chipping away at Koga’s lead, and ended the match at No. 17 when Koga took a quadruple bogey.
“She was really good,” Koga said of Kan’s game as she cooled off after the round.
Koga is used to temperatures upward of 90 degrees, it’s like that all the time back home in Honolulu, where she can see the beach from her balcony, but rarely goes. Hey, by the time you’re 15, the novelty has worn off a little bit.
She’s also used to physical exertion. She started each day this week with a run, just like she does every tournament. Even if it’s just five minutes on the treadmill – like on Thursday morning – a quick jog gets Koga’s mind and body in the right place before a match.
“I don’t really like running, but I have to warm up,” she said.
Koga is every bit the Hawaii girl. Every time she picks up her bag, it reveals a giant “Aloha” bumper sticker and a hang-ten sign plastered to the bottom. She spent the day calling Corpuz “Uncle Marcus,” per Hawaii tradition (aunt and uncle often replace Mr. and Mrs.), and displayed a horrified look when told that opponent Kan had signed to a school in the Midwest, where winters feature a lot of snow snow and ice.
“I want to go somewhere in California, so I’m not too far from Hawaii,” Koga said, listing UCLA, USC, Pepperdine, Stanford and maybe Arizona State as possbilities for college. She enters her junior year this fall and already has one individual state golf title under her belt.
This is Koga’s second U.S. Girls’ Junior, but it’s the first time she has made the cut. Despite an early exit, she’s just fine with satisfying that goal, especially since she says stroke play is more her thing. Koga drew the No. 3 seed after rounds of 76-69. The second round included an eagle at the par-5 No. 11, where she watched an 8-iron from 130 yards roll all the way across a slope and drop in the back of the hole.
Koga is in the middle of a six-week stretch of events in the continental U.S. It began with the Callaway Junior World Championships, and continues next week at the Junior Americas Cup in Genoa Lakes Golf Club and Resort in Genoa, Nev., where Koga will team with fellow Hawaiians Marissa Chow, Kacie Komoto and Margaret Min.
The trip ends with two weeks in Japan, where Koga will play the Japan Junior Open and perhaps one other event. It all adds up to missing a month of school.
“My summer gets busier and busier every year,” she said.
The winter, at least, will be passed on island time.