Cassy Isagawa has won her fair share of tournaments, but this one was different. The University of Oregon golfer played at the 2010 Junior Professional Golfers Association Championship in a neck-and-neck battle with junior phenom Ginger Howard for the title.
“I didn’t even realize how many people were watching,” Isagawa said. “I got tunnel vision.”
Isagawa and Howard parred their first two holes before coming around to the third playoff hole. Howard missed her par putt, giving Isagawa a chance to win it.
“I’d never been in such an intense playoff like that,” Isagawa said. “I was focused and I was going to give it my all.”
Isagawa sunk her putt to win the championship, launching her into the 2010 Junior Ryder Cup alongside some of the world’s best junior golfers. The roster included rising stars like Howard, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth — who tied for second in this month’s Masters tournament.
Those three golfers have since left amateurism behind to enter the PGA tour and professional golf, but despite earning elite status in the golfing world, Isagawa — a junior on the Oregon women’s golf team — has a much more grounded perspective on golf and on life.
Isagawa is from Wailuku, Hawaii — a quaint town in central Maui with a population of just over 15,000. Oregon head coach Ria Scott said Isagawa is calm and relaxed, maybe due to her “Hawaii vibe.”
Maui News sports reporter Rob Collias extensively covered Isagawa’s high school career. Collias said Isagawa was the best golfer to ever play at Baldwin High School but was always calm and collected.
“She’s kind of laid back and a sweetheart,” Collias said. “But put her on her field of competition and she’s a killer.”
Taking things in stride has been a large part of Isagawa’s focus on her game.
“She isn’t going to complain about the weather or conditions,” Scott said. “She doesn’t let things like that get to her.”
While Maui boasts the famous Kapalua golf resort, Wailuku has two smaller golf courses with harsher greens and fairways that Isagawa always thinks back to — The Dunes at Maui Lani and the Waiehu Golf Course.
“I wasn’t playing the nicest courses,” Isagawa said. “Playing back at home made me more thankful that I have these opportunities to go out and play for Oregon, be on a scholarship and play on these beautiful golf courses. I really don’t take anything for granted.”
Isagawa’s success has continued at Oregon. The junior has been on Golfweek’s All-American First Team, has finished in the top 15 on the national individual leaderboard (the best finish in school history) and placed in the top 25 at the 2013 NCAA Championship, which Isagawa called her best moment at Oregon.
This season, the long-driving Isagawa is eyeing another top-30 finish despite the team’s disappointing finish at the Pac-12 championship this weekend. But looking forward, Isagawa’s professional career is well within sight.
“Graduating will be my first goal, but my second goal is to turn professional and hopefully make it on the LPGA tour,” Isagawa said. “Even if I don’t make it, it’s going to help me learn and grow and become a better golfer and a better person.”
Follow Josh Schlichter on Twitter @joshschlichter