Daikin Orchid Ladies Golf tournament tee off Friday

Participants of the Daikin Orchid Ladies Golf Tournament will tee off Friday at Ryukyu Golf Club.

Onnarin Sattayabanphot is back in Okinawa, set to defend her Daikin Orchid Ladies Golf Tournament title, while challenges are expected from three former champions.

Onnarin Sattayabanphot, the winner of last year’s tournament is ready to defend her title.

The youngster from Thailand, playing only her fourth full season on the JLPGA tour, upended the 2013 Daikin Orchid champion, Rikako Morita, in capturing her second career tour victory. Four birdies on her last ten holes were exactly what was needed for her to sweep past the defending champion to win the 2014 Daikin Orchid and claim the ¥18 million paycheck. She was well ahead of Airi Saitoh and Bo-Mee Lee in taking the win.

Groundskeepers have put the finishing touches on the Ryukyu Country Club course in preparation for the 28th annual Daikin Orchid Ladies Golf Tournament this weekend, and the hot talk’s on whether last year’s winner can repeat, or either the 2013 winner will get revenge.

2013 winner Rikako Morita has herb eye on recapturing the trophy.t.

Action is under way today at the Ryukyu Country Club with the Pro-Am event.  The first and second rounds of the tournament are Friday and Saturday, with the championship Daikin Orchid round set for Sunday.

A total of 108 players are slated to start, with 65 from Japan, 19 from Korea, three from Taiwan, and one each from Thailand, China and U.S. plus another 18, including five amateurs, by organizer invitation.

Eight professional players from Okinawa are competing, including Shinobu Moromisato, who has participated in Daikin Orchid every year since 2000, except 2003, winning her best finish in 2010 when she was 2nd.  Other Okinawans playing are Mika Miyasato,

2010 winner Ahn Sun-Ju takes part this year, too.

Ayako Uehara. Mamiko Higa, Tomoko Kanai, Hikari Kawamitsu, Satsuki Oshiro and Minami Oshiro.

This year’s Daikin Orchid Ladies Golf Tournament participants are smiling because the winner takes home ¥18 million this year, and second place is worth ¥8.8 million and third place ¥7 million. The 50th place finisher hauls in ¥400,000. Tee-off for the first round of the 54-hole tournament is Friday 7th at 8:30 a.m.

Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th the tee-offs begin at 8 a.m. Tickets for the first and second day cost ¥2,000, final day tickets are ¥3,000, and are available at all golf courses, driving ranges and golf shops, Ryubo, Coop Okinawa stores and Lawson and FamilyMart convenience stores.

Sinobu Moromisato has played in every Daikin Orchid except one since 2000.

The JLPGA has strict rules for spectators.  Cell-phones must be on the silent mode, no photos or videotaping are permitted, and no high-heel shoes are permitted on or near the course.  There’s NO parking at the club house. Parking is available at Nishihara Marine Park, with a free shuttle bus running frequently.

The Tournament is sponsored by Daikin Industries Ltd.  The top 50 competitors move to the final round on Sunday.  That round is televised by Japanese networks.  A popular feature of the Daikin Orchid is its mainly volunteer staff.  More than 450 ladies donate their services to make the event a success.  Daikin Bounty, a fundraising event promoting Okinawan culture, sports and entertainment, is also a part of the Daikin Orchid event.  The group has raised more than ¥200 million over the past few years, donating funds to private and educational related Okinawa groups.