Nagano aims to light up Faldo Series Japan Championship
Tokyo, Japan (November 15): Six weeks after capturing the public imagination with a performance belying her tender years, teenager Minori Nagano returns to the limelight in this week’s Faldo Series Asia Japan Championship.
At the Karasuyamajo Country Club at the start of October, Nagano dominated national headlines when she improbably took a two-stroke lead into the final round of the Japan Women’s Open Championship.
Although her bid to become the youngest winner of a Japan LPGA Tour Major title came unstuck on the last day, the first-year high school student’s astonishing display catapulted her into the conscience of the country’s golf fans who are now anxious to see her progress.
An early opportunity to underscore Nagano’s talent presents itself at the Shizu Hills Country Club in the 15th leg of the record-breaking 2016-17 Faldo Series Asia season.
Last year, Nagano finished third in the Girls’ Under-16 category. Victory in this week’s 54-hole R&A World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) event would not only prove to be a timely present ahead of her 16th birthday next month but also would earn her a trip to Laguna Lăng Cô in Danang, Central Vietnam, in March, 2017 to fly the flag for Japan in the 11th Faldo Series Asia Grand Final.
Furthermore, it would see her follow in the footsteps of Nasa Hataoka, last year’s Faldo Series Asia Japan Championship winner and also triumphant in last month’s Japan Women’s Open Championship, where she displaced Nagano at the top of the leaderboard.
Hataoka finished third overall in the 10th Faldo Series Asia Grand Final, a result that Nagano would like to improve upon next year as she sets her sights on establishing herself in the Japan national women’s team.
At the Shizu Hills Country Club, Nagano can expect strong challenges from a host of outstanding young players in the 160-strong field, one of the largest in Faldo Series Asia history.
Among the many highly-rated contenders are 18-year-old Yusuke Sakamoto and 16-year-old Keita Nakajima, both national squad members who have distinguished themselves in recent months.
In October, Sakamoto made the half-way cut in the Japan Golf Tour Organisation’s Top Cup Tokai Classic and the Japan Open Championship, where he finished equal second among the amateurs.
Nakajima, meanwhile, built on his runners-up finish in last year’s Japan Amateur by winning the TrueVisions International Junior Championship in Thailand in April. Notably, he finished ahead of Hong Kong’s Philip D’Souza and Indian Arjun Prasad, the top two finishers at the 10th Faldo Series Asia Grand Final.
Six-time Major champion Sir Nick Faldo, Britain’s most successful golfer, said: “Traditionally Japan has been among the strongest nations at the Faldo Series Asia Grand Final, with Japanese players taking the top prize in three of the last five years.
“The Japan Golf Association is continuing to play a major role in promoting the game and it’s been fantastic to see the recent successes of Hideki Matsuyama at the WGC-HSBC Champions in China and Nasa Hataoka in the Japan Women’s Open. Their triumphs should act as an inspiration to all competitors in the Faldo Series Japan Championship.”
Supported by The R&A and endorsed by the Asian Tour and the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation, the 2016-17 Faldo Series Asia campaign stretches over 11 months.
As well as two events in China, India and Thailand, championships will be staged in Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Chinese-Taipei, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.
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, both multiple Major winners.