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Teen sensation claims first pro victory

Date Posted: 2004-03-11

An Okinawa teenager captured her first pro golf title Sunday, only months after turning professional.

Eighteen-year-old Ai Miyasato, who turned pro only 146 days before posting a two-under-par 70 to win the LPGA season opening Daikin Orchid Ladies Tournament at Ryukyu Country Club in Okinawa. The tournament attracted record crowds of more than 12,000 spectators daily.

Miyazato, playing in only her fourth tournament, is the youngest women’s tour winner ever in Japan. She squeezed out four birdies while giving up only two bogeys to win the Y60 million yen event in her native Okinawa. She was born in Higashi Village, famous for the Azalea Festival now in progress.

Miyazato credits luck for being on her side, noting she’d had a weak pre-season in training. "I had some luck on my side,” she said, but added that “my brother has to take half the credit for my victory for being my caddy today," Her brother, Yusaku, is a professional on the men’s tour.

Miyazato finished the tournament 10 under par, three strokes ahead of veteran Kaori Higo, with a 54-hole total of 206 to collect the winner's prize of 10.8 million yen.

Mikiyo Nishizuka and Toshimi Kimura shared third on with 211 scores.

Miyazato became the first amateur player in 30 years to win on the pro circuit when she captured the Miyagi TV Cup in September. It was her second overall win on the JLPGA.

The 2002 Asian Games gold medallist, she made her pro debut at the Itoen Ladies last November but failed to make the cut.

The Okinawa tournament was a showcase for local teenagers. Sixteen-year-old
amateur Shinobu Moromizato finished tied for fifth with a three under par, while defending champion Yuri Fudo, the top golfer on the women's tour for the past four seasons, struggled with a 2-over 74 and closed in a share of 23rd.

Fourteen-year-old Mika Miyazato, another Okinawa teen, placed eighth, one under par.

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