• Kyodo


After earning her second American LPGA Tour card earlier this month, teenager Nasa Hataoka won the Rookie of the Year Award at Monday’s Japan LPGA Tour awards ceremony.

The teen turned heads in October when she became only the second golfer to win the Japan Women’s Open Golf Championship two years in a row. She played in a major for the first time this year but struggled for results, settling for a season-best finish of 15th at the Portland Classic in September.

“It was nice to be back in Japan and able to let go of the troubles I had on the U.S. tour,” said Hataoka, who attended the ceremony resplendent in a bright kimono.

“I was told by everyone that it suits me,” she said after mentioning she hadn’t dressed up like that since the traditional “shichigosan” festival for boys aged three and five and three- and seven-year-old girls.

Hataoka finished first in Qualifying School on Dec. 4 and plans to take part in January’s season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic.

“I want to focus on my short game,” said the rookie, currently 44th on the tour.

Ai Suzuki swept the major categories at the awards, winning for the most prize money and most points of the season.

“It was a lucky year,” said Suzuki, currently 30th in the LPGA. “I’m glad to have won so many awards.”

“In any case, I’d like to win three (awards),” she added. “I want to keep winning.”

Other award winners included South Korea’s Shin Ji-yai for best stroke average with 70.2920, and her compatriot Lee Min-young, who received the Fighting Spirit prize in her first year on the Japan tour.

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