Japanese triumvirate seek Faldo Series Asia Grand Final success
Shenzhen, China (March 1): Nasa Hataoka, Minami Hiruta and Yumi Kudo will spearhead Japan’s bid for continued glory in the Faldo Series Asia Grand Final.
The talented teenage triumvirate are among the favourites for victory in the 10th anniversary edition of the event that Sir Nick Faldo launched in 2007 with a view to growing the game around the world and unearthing the next batch of global golfing superstars.
“It promises to be another memorable tournament,” said six-time Major champion Faldo, who will be present at Shenzhen’s Mission Hills Golf Club throughout the week.
As well as conducting golfing clinics, Faldo will mingle with the 80-plus players from no fewer than 20 countries that will compete over the acclaimed Faldo Course at Mission Hills from March 2-4.
For Hataoka, Hiruta and Kudo, the focus is to follow in the footsteps of Yuki Kamasu , Mikumu Horikawa  and Masamichi Ito  and become the R&A World Amateur Golf Ranking [WAGR] tournament’s fourth Japanese champion the in the past five years.
One of Asia’s brightest female prospects, Hataoka, who turned 17 last month and has a plus-five handicap, has risen to 60th in the WAGR.
Among many highlights in 2015, she was a runaway winner in the Girls’ 15-17 segment at the IMG Academy Junior World Golf Championships at San Diego’s Torrey Pines and triumphant in the Faldo Series Asia Japan Championship.
Further kudos came her way last November when she contended in the Japan LPGA Tour’s Hisako Higuchi Ponta Ladies tournament, eventually finishing in a share of seventh place.
Meanwhile, Hiruta has set her sights on going one better than last year when she placed second to Princess Mary Superal of the Philippines in the Girls’ Under-21 division at the ninth Faldo Series Asia Grand Final.
Japan Women’s Amateur champion in 2014, 18-year-old Hiruta is 134th on the WAGR.
For Kudo, who celebrated her 16th birthday last week, there will be happy memories at returning to Mission Hills where she won the Girls’ Under-16 title last year, edging China’s Liu Yan and New Zealander Brooke Hamilton on a countback.
Kudo went on to spring a surprise by emerging victorious in the 19th Faldo Series Grand Final at Germany’s Sporting Club Berlin, becoming only the second girl to earn the title of overall Series Champion.
"I was very happy to win in Germany," said Kudo. "Japanese players have done well in the Grand Finals before and it felt great to continue the record. I thank Sir Nick for the opportunity."
Faldo said: "Congratulations to Japan and Yumi. She played brilliant golf on a course that is being considered for hosting international events and the Ryder Cup in 2022. Japan now holds both the 2015 Faldo Series titles, in Asia and in Europe and are setting a standard.
“It's pleasing to see these exciting young players developing their game and I’m very much looking forward to watching them in action and spending time with them at Mission Hills.
“Our thanks go to our sponsors. The R&A, European Tour, Asian Tour, PGA Tour and the PGA of America support us every day to grow the game of golf all around the world."
As well as receiving the Faldo Series Asia trophy, the overall winner will be granted an exemption into an Asian Tour event. The Girls’ winner will be given a start in a Ladies European Tour event.
Both will also earn themselves a trip to the United Kingdom to compete in the Faldo Series Europe Grand Final.
Meanwhile, China-based players will be vying for the Mission Hills Trophy, awarded to the leading golfer from the People’s Republic.
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 stretched over 11 months and was made up 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 multiple Major champions Tseng Ya-ni and Rory McIlroy.