RIFU, Miyagi Pref. – Teenage prodigy Ai Miyazato became only the second amateur player ever to win on the Japanese LPGA tour and the first in 30 years when she came from behind to clinch the Miyagi TV Cup Dunlop Ladies Open on Sunday.
The 18-year-old high school student from Okinawa sank a dramatic birdie putt on the 18th hole at Ishioka Golf Club to beat overnight leader Hiroko Yamaguchi and Mari Katayama by one stroke with a three-day total of 5-under-par 211.
JLPGA Vice Chairwoman Takako Kiyomoto was the first amateur to achieve the feat when she won the Toyotomi Ladies tournament in 1973.
Miyazato, the reigning women’s amateur national champion and 2002 Asian Games individual gold medalist, also became the first high school student and the youngest player ever to win a JLPGA title. Shinako Masuda held the previous record as the youngest by winning as a 19-year-old in 1976.
“I’m delighted but maybe feel more relieved than anything that this tournament is finally over,” said Miyazato. “When I made that final putt on the 18th, my hands were trembling and I was shaking in my shoes.”
Fourth-year pro Yamaguchi, who had led the first two rounds, suffered from a bout of stage fright and blew her title chances by canceling out three birdies with four bogeys for her second straight 73. Katayama grabbed a share of second after a 2-under 70.
Kuramoto takes playoff
OGAWA, Ibaraki Pref. (Kyodo) Veteran Masahiro Kuramoto went amiss with a final-round 2-over-par 73 but prevailed in a three-way playoff to win his first tournament on the Japan tour in eight years one stroke ahead of Masashi Ozaki and Katsumasa Miyamoto at the 120 million yen Acom International on Sunday.
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