From Hawaii to the Palouse: Pono Yanagi to compete in individual NCAA regional 

Pono Yanagi sits down for an Evergreen exclusive Q&A


Courtesy of Pac-12 Conference

Pono Yanagi finished in third place at the Pac-12 Championship, the best finish in program history.

ERICK AGUILAR, Evergreen reporter

Senior golfer Pono Yanagi made an essential contribution to the program’s highest-ever Pac-12 Championship finish, with a program-best third-place finish.

In high school, he was a standout four-letter varsity athlete at Kamehameha schools. As a senior in 2019, he won the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Individual Championship and later moved on to place fifth in the state championship.

After his standout high school career in the rainbow state, Yanagi followed suit with his older sister Nani Yanagi. Nani played golf for the crimson and gray women’s team from 2012–16.

During his freshman year on the Palouse, he competed in all seven tournaments and finished with the third-best scoring average on the team with 74.65 per round, collected three top-fifty finishes and collected his highest career finish at 22nd at the Pacific Invitational. It was no doubt a strong collegiate debut season despite most of the season being canceled because of the pandemic.

As a sophomore with a shortened season, he played in four of the five tournaments for the team. Yanagi’s scoring average was 75.42 in 14 rounds.

Later as a junior he tee’d off at all 10 events. His scoring average was 72.48 and he aided in setting the program’s best-ever scoring average that season at 288.17.

Yanagi had a standout season this year, appearing in all 11 starting lineups this season and leading the Cougars in six of them. His season did not go unnoticed as he has been selected for the NCAA Division-I individual athlete regional in Morgan Hill, California.

Fortunate enough for the Crimson and Gray, Yanagi will be returning next season for his final season of athletic eligibility.

The Daily Evergreen got the chance to sit down with WSU golfer Christian Pono Seitaro Yanagi, just prior to the recent Pac-12 Championship event. Although, the Hawaii native prefers going by just “Pono.”

D.E.: Can you give us a brief outlook in your own words on how this season has gone for you guys thus far? 

Pono: The season has been, so far so good, yeah we started pretty hot. We did have some downs, you know some rough spots, but you know as a team we just work together and try to prep for the next tournament and just focus on what’s in front of us.

D.E.: I’m sure you all have been preparing for the Pac-12 Championship, Have you guys maybe changed how you prepare for events or just staying with what you know?

Pono: We kinda just stick to what we have been doing. Playing our last event at El Macero, the course, in general, was a pretty good prep for Stanford. You know, the tighter fairways and firmer greens. So I believe it was a great tournament to play right before Pac-12s. But team-wise, we are doing a lot of drills and just getting ready for Stanford’s course. A few of us have played there a couple of times so that helps for sure.

My favorite course is Stanford’s. Maybe not the easiest to play but definitely one of the best courses in college golf.

D.E.: Can you talk about your transition from Hawaii to Pullman?

Pono: Yeah, it was a little rough one my freshman year obviously getting used to the weather. New people, new faces and just a new routine of life and getting used to college life.

The biggest one was the weather for sure. I definitely miss the humid 80-degree weather. But I love it here, the small college town and everyone supports Cougar athletics. It is kinda a pride thing when you play for WSU.

D.E.: How competitive are you guys in practice? Are those [tournament lineup] spots open for the taking? 

Pono: We’re super competitive with trying to earn our spots. There are times when coaches will pick and there are times when we will play for all the spots. I tell the team this all the time and they’re probably tired of hearing me say it, but when I first came [to WSU] the qualifiers were not that competitive, but it is not like how it is now where you have to score to make the starting lineup. And it is a lot harder to make the starting lineup now and that is what we need as a team.

D.E.: Any personal expectations? Any personal goals for next year’s season?

Pono: You know. Just becoming a better player overall, physically and mentally for sure. One thing that coach Dustin says is to try to get one percent better each day. So hopefully this summer I can take advantage of the weather, work on my mental game and hopefully put up some scores.

We wish Yanagi and his cohorts the best of luck moving forward into the NCAA regionals. The regionals will be from May 15– 17.

The NCAA Championship will be played from May 26–31 in Scottsdale, Arizona.