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Nagano and Nakajima headline Faldo Series Japan Championship

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6 November 2017

Tokyo, Japan (November 6): The prospect of a return trip to Danang’s Laguna Lăng Cô will be a driving force for Keita Nakajima and Minori Nagano when they tee-off in this week’s Faldo Series Japan Championship.

Among the pre-tournament favourites at the 11th Faldo Series Asia Grand Final eight months ago, Nakajima and Nagano’s hopes of challenging for top honours did not materialise.

Now they are setting their sights on another shot at glory under the watchful eye of Sir Nick Faldo in the 12th Faldo Series Asia Grand Final at Laguna Lăng Cô in March, 2018.

To ensure their passage to Vietnam, however, the talented duo will need to assert themselves at the Shizu Hills Country Club in their national qualifier, the eighth leg of the 2017-18 Faldo Series Asia season.

Given the traditionally strong field that will gather for the 54-hole R&A World Amateur Golf Ranking event, Nakajima and Nagano will have to display the kind of poise that has been a hallmark of their impressive performances over the past 12 months.

Both will have happy memories from last year’s Faldo Series Japan Championship when they topped the standings in their respective Under-16 segments. Thanks to a final-round 68, national squad member Nakajima also claimed the overall title.

There have been indications that Nakajima and Nagano are both maturing as golfers.

Nakajima, now aged 17, first sprang to prominence when finishing runner-up in the Japan Amateur Championship in 2015. This year, his form has picked up since finishing in a share of 16th place at the Faldo Series Asia Grand Final.

Among the highlights were victory in the Kanto Amateur Championship in June, a joint second-place finish in the Duke of York Young Champions Trophy at England’s Royal Liverpool Golf Club in September and a top-20 placing at last month’s Asia Pacific Amateur Championship in New Zealand.

He also had the distinction of winning the award for low amateur in the Japan Golf Tour’s Asia-Pacific Diamond Cup. There, he was the only one of 15 amateurs in the starting line-up to make the half-way cut.

Meanwhile, Nagano, who will turn 17 next month, first caught the public imagination last year when she led the Japan Women’s Open Championship after three rounds.

Although her bid to become the youngest winner of a Japan LPGA Tour Major title came unstuck on the last day, Nagano’s display catapulted her into the conscience of the country’s golf fans who are now closely following her progress.

As well as winning the Girls’ Under-16 title at the 11th Faldo Series Asia Grand Final, this year has seen Nagano tie for second in the Japan Junior Championship and make the cut in the Japan LPGA Tour’s Resort Trust Ladies.

Six-time Major champion Faldo, Britain’s most successful golfer, said: “Since we launched the Faldo Series Asia, Japan has traditionally been among the strongest nations. Japanese players have taken the top prize in three of the last six years and I would expect them to be challenging once more when we get to Vietnam.”

The 2017-18 Faldo Series Asia season is supported by The R&A and endorsed by the Asian Tour and the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation. The International Junior Golf Academy is a partner of the Faldo Series.

As well as two events in China, India and Thailand, championships are being 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 champions include Tseng Ya-ni and Rory McIlroy, both multiple Major winners.