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CHAMPIONSHIP:Hirahatake says no to Tipton

COSTA MESA CITY

GOLF: Woodbridge High product beats the CdM resident in a sudden-death playoff for the title in the championship flight.

August 06, 2007|By Steve Virgen

COSTA MESA — The 21-year-old's heart raced.

The 39-year-old's emotions were high, and as he put it, "I was fired up."

The two walked the fairway toward the first hole at Costa Mesa Country Club Sunday. With the Costa Mesa City Championship on the line, they did their best to ignore the atmosphere — a large gallery, whispering questions about them and short stories about their play in the final round — stemming from a sudden-death playoff.

Silence.

Chris Hirahatake, the 21-year-old, knocked in a 10-foot putt for birdie on No. 1 to win the playoff in the championship flight against Corona del Mar resident Will Tipton.

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"I want to give glory to God," said Hirahatake, a Woodbridge alumnus who will be a senior at UC San Diego. "This championship means a lot to me. My father lives close by, in Huntington Beach and I played in this a few times, wanting to win it."

Tipton, the Big Canyon Country Club champion who led after Saturday with a four-under-par 66 first-round, missed a 15-foot putt for birdie and settled for par, opening the door for Hirahatake.

The Costa Mesa City champion, who shot even on the first day, finished before Tipton on Sunday at one-under for a final score of three-under 139.

After a birdie on No. 14, Tipton held a short-lived lead at four-under. He nearly birdied the 15th, but settled for par. He then bogeyed No. 16 to fall back in a tie with Hirahatake.

On No. 17, Tipton putted to the lip of the cup, just missing a birdie and had to take par.

Then on the 18th, amid plenty of pressure, Tipton nailed a five-foot putt for par to set up the sudden-death playoff that ended on the par-five first hole.

"The disappointment is there," Tipton said afterward. "But I was happy to be there, playing in a playoff."

Tipton actually expressed distaste after the 18th. Though he hit a clutch shot, he was thinking about, "what if."

"If I had to criticize anything I did, it would be No. 16 with the flag stick left," said Tipton, who played at USC, 1985-89. "All you don't want to do is go long. I was between putts. I went long … you live and learn."

Hirahatake is certainly learning, but mainly about himself. After playing his freshman and some of his sophomore year at UC San Diego, he left the Tritons' team to focus more on his academics.

He's a psychology major, and that's his priority. But he said it hasn't kept him away from golf.

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