Hataoka flies high at Faldo Series Japan Championship
Tokyo, Japan (December 1): Nasa Hataoka maintained her sparkling run of form to claim victory in the Faldo Series Asia Japan Championship.
The upwardly mobile teenager fully justified her recent leap to 131st in the R&A World Amateur Golf Ranking [WAGR] for females by keeping a strong field at bay in the 16th leg of the record-breaking 2015-2016 Faldo Series Asia season.
Showing few signs of nerves, Hataoka skilfully manoeuvred her way around the Shizu Hills Country Club course, posting rounds of 71, 72 and a closing 70.
That gave her a 54-hole aggregate of three-under 213 and a one-stroke victory margin from Hosho Takahashi. Suzuka Yamaguchi, who shot to fame in June when she finished second in a sectional qualifier to book herself a starting spot in the US Women’s Open, ended a further two shots back in sole possession of third spot in the overall standings.
Hataoka will now go on to spearhead Japan’s bid for a fourth Faldo Series Asia Grand Final triumph in five attempts at Mission Hills in Shenzhen next March in the presence of Sir Nick Faldo.
Also flying the flag for Japan in the 10th Anniversary Faldo Series Asia Grand Final will be Ryo Katsumata (Boys’ Under-21 winner); Ibuki Yoshida (Boys’ Under-18), Hosho Takahashi (Boys’ Under-18) and Minami Hiruta, who retained her title in the Girls’Under-21 category.
But it will be 16-year-old Hataoka upon whom attention is sure to focus at Mission Hills.
Among her many highlights this year, she was a runaway winner in the Girls’ 15-17 segment at July’s IMG Academy Junior World Golf Championships, held over the North Course at San Diego’s Torrey Pines.
Further kudos came her way last month when Hataoka contended in the Japan LPGA Tour’s Hisako Higuchi Ponta Ladies tournament, eventually finishing in a share of seventh place.
Last year’s Japan Women’s Amateur champion Hiruta will also be relishing a trip to the acclaimed Faldo Course at Mission Hills, where she was second to Princess Mary Superal of the Philippines in the Girls’ Under-21 division at the ninth Faldo Series Asia Grand Final.
Six-time Major champion Faldo, Britain’s most successful golfer, said: “We’ve seen three boys from Japan win the overall title at the Faldo Asia Series Grand Final since 2012. With Nasa Hataoka and Minami Hiruta in such good form at the moment, perhaps the 10th Anniversary Grand Final will be marked by a win for a Japanese female.”
Supported by The R&A and Mission Hills and endorsed by the Asian Tour and the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation, the 2015-16 Faldo Series Asia campaign stretches over 11 months and boasts a minimum of 21 events in 17 countries including, for the first time, Australia.
Recognised as the only global amateur series for boys and girls, the Faldo Series was established in 1996, expanding to Asia in 2006.
Today, 40 Faldo Series tournaments take place in 30-plus countries worldwide, touching more than 7,000 golfers each year. Past winners include Tseng Ya-ni and Rory McIlroy, who took his tally of professional Major titles to four with his wins at last year’s Open Championship and US PGA Championship.
Faldo Series Japan Championship, leading final scores:
217 – Ryo Katsumata (72-70-75)
218 – Dai Takeuchi (70-79-69)
219 – Daisuke Matsubara (72-74-73); Kenta Hiraishi (74-72-73)
220 – Ibuki Yoshida (76-78-66)
222 – Hayato Yoshida (68-79-75)
223 – Eijiro Ogawa (71-78-74); Hikaru Koba (76-72-75)
214 – Hosho Takahashi (76-70-68)
218 – Riki Kawamoto (78-71-69)
219 – Masaki Mikura (71-70-78)
223 – Minami Hiruta (78-77-68)
225 – Saya Aono (73-79-73); Satsuki Kuwayama (78-73-74)
213 – Nasa Hataoka (71-72-70)
216 – Suzuka Yamaguchi (73-72-71)
224 – Minori Nagano (71-82-71)