KAHULUI - Alex Chiarella pondered the thought for a moment. Yes, the Maui Open is the most significant tournament he has ever won.
After a sizzling 66 in the first round Saturday, Chiarella fired an up-and-down, even-par 72 on Sunday at The Dunes at Maui Lani to win the final event he will play on the Valley Isle before his college career begins in September at the University of San Diego.
"Yeah, I guess it is the biggest that I have ever won," Chiarella said. "It is definitely a major golf tournament for this island and this state. Great field. I see so many college golfers, so many successful players from the Asian Tour, the Gateway Tour, so this is a strong field. I am grateful to be able to play with these guys."
Because of his amateur status, Chiarella could not accept the $4,000 winner's check, which went to former Honokaa High School and Oregon standout Sean Maekawa, runner-up for the second year in a row.
Maekawa turned professional in December, after finishing his college degree. He shot rounds of 70 and 71 to finish three strokes behind Chiarella and pick up the biggest paycheck of his career.
Afterward, Maekawa marveled at the play of Chiarella, a two-time Maui Interscholastic League champion and state high school runner-up who graduated from Seabury Hall in May.
"He was 12 years old when I left junior golf," Maekawa said. "From what I have seen, he is a pretty good player. He can do well in college."
Maekawa was in the next-to-last group with defending champion Sam Cyr, a King Kekaulike graduate who is now on the Asian Tour. Cyr closed with a 73 and finished tied for fourth at 144, a shot behind Max Bonk (76).
Maekawa and Cyr will be playing in PGA Tour Qualifying School, which begins in October, and Maekawa likes Cyr's chances in his fourth try to earn a PGA card.
"Oh man, he is solid," Mae-kawa said of Cyr. "He has improved a lot since we were young. All the results I have seen from him, there is no wonder why he is good."
Cyr also looked at Chiarella and saw a bright future.
"Alex has a lot of talent, he is stacked," Cyr said. "I like his golf game, he has grown up, he has taken some lessons from Jerry (King), who we both grew up taking some lessons from. He has a real solid swing, he is a great putter. Just look at his scores out here."
Chiarella will play in the U.S. Amateur next week at Cherry Hills Country Club in Colorado, and will arrive on a roll after the best summer of his golf life.
"I am real excited, I just got to play in my first USGA event, the U.S. Public Links last month, and it was a great experience," he said. "So hopefully I will take that with me to Colorado and put up some good numbers."
His summer also included a win in the state junior tournament and earned him one of five spots for San Diego's opening tournament in Japan - he is the only freshman who will make the trip.
"I'm real excited because coach told us that the first tournament was all based on how our summer goes," Chiarella said. "I played pretty well this summer, so I am so excited to go to a place I have never been to. I definitely have some confidence from this win, it feels awesome."
Chiarella was in the final group with Seabury Hall assistant coach Jake Grodzinsky, who grew up on Maui until the 8th grade. The former Duke and Gateway Tour player, who tied Cyr after a 74, said the sky is the limit for Chiarella.
"So good, so good," Grod-zinsky said. "I went through it, both junior and collegiate and he is way better than I was at his age. I think he has got a bunch of potential. He will do great in college, but if he wanted to I think he could go pro right now and be pretty successful."
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com