The only thing hotter than the August sun on Tuesday at the Kelowna Golf and Country Club was the play of Kyla Inaba.
The 24-year-old from Kelowna scorched the local course with a career-best round of 6-under par 67 to win the KGCC’s Ladies Invitational for the second time in three years.
Inaba’s two round total of 8-under par 138 (71-67) was 11 shots better than runner-up Jen Woods of Kelowna, and 15 clear of defending champion Haley Cameron.
Inaba, a former captain of the UBC Thunderbirds golf team, headed into the second and final round with a slim one-shot lead over Cameron, a KGCC product and current member of the UBC T’Birds program.
But it was soon apparent it would be Inaba’s day when she canned her tee shot for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 115-yard second hole. Cameron, 20, stayed close with birdies on the second and third holes before Inaba pulled away with the best round of her life. She added an eagle on the par-5 10th to go along with four birdies, nine pars and two bogeys to leave the field in her wake.
“It was pretty exicitng,” said Inaba who won the tournament in 2009, then didn’t play in last year’s event. “I knew I’d have to play well today because I knew Haley was going to come out firing and there was a lot of good competition.
“I just wanted to play as best I could, and it just hapened I started well with the hole-in-one and that was good because Haley went par-birdie-birdie, and I knew she’d keep pressing,” Inaba continued.
“From then on it was just birdie on every other second hole and then an eagle on the 10th. It was definitely nice to play as well as I did and shoot my lowest round yet.”
For Woods, the second-place showing was an encouraging result for the fourth-year member of the UBC Okanagan Heat women’s golf team.
In her second appearance at the Invitational, the Rutland grad finished at 3-over 149 (73-76).
“I couldn’t have asked for anything better, better weather or course conditions,” said Woods, 21, the BCCAA player of the year in 2010-11. “I had a caddy (Keith Martin) for the second day which I haven’t had before so that was nice.
“I was so happy to be playing in the last group of the last day. My second showing, I was just so happy to be playing with high calibre players like Kyla, it was nice to see local girls playing so well.”
In Cameron’s case, the Kelowna Secondary grad couldn’t maintain her strong start to the second round and finished at 6-over par 153 (72-81) to finish in third spot.
“I felt like I got off to a really solid start but made a couple of bad swings and just didn’t quite keep it together, missed some clutch putts and, you know, it happens,” said a still cheerful Cameron who became the tournament’s youngest winner last year at the age of 19.
“It was so much fun out there, Jen played really well, I’ve never seen such solid golf out of her, and to watch Kyla make bridies all the way around was exciting. It was really fun group, a fun day.”
Chelsey Cooper finished fourth at 154, Eileen Kelly took fifth at 158, while former Invitational winner Melanie Grant was sixth at 159.
While Woods returns to school this season at UBCO, and Cameron heads back to UBC Vancouver to rejoin the Thunderbirds next week, Inaba remains uncertain about what her plans are for the fall. Her options include wintering in Arizona, or heading to Australia where she would likely turn professional.
Regardless of what awaits Inaba, a convincing win at her hometown tournament was a nice way to cap off the summer of 2011.
“It means a lot just because this tournamnt has just seen me grow along the years, it’s seen me progress and my game progress. It means a lot, it’s a super-run event and brings you back to your roots. It’s great.”
Merry Shillington was the overall low net winner with a score of 138.