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Hometown sweetheart loses bid to defend LPGA golf title

Date Posted: 2005-03-11

Orie Fujino edged Michiko Hattori to win the Daikin Orchid Ladies Golf Tournament in Okinawa, with local favorite Ai Miyazato struggling in her home island environment.

Fujino and Hattori were locked in links combat to the end, battling both each other and the elements to finish. Fujino won by a stroke on the par 72, 6,393 yard course to win the lion’s share of the ¥80 million in prizes. Bone chilling temperatures and frigid winds forced golfers to make adjustments to playing styles.

Miya Koga finished third with a 218 and Shin Huyun Ju of South Korea topped out at 220.

Defending champion Ai Miyazato couldn’t get it together in her return home after two outstanding performances in South Africa and Australia. She finished with a four over par 76 to finish at 226. More than 25,000 spectators turned out in the blustery weather, many to watch Ai-chan play. The temperature was only 6.4C, but fans cheered Miyazato’s every move, even when “Oh no, (sigh)…Ai-chan wasn’t good.” Ai-chan finished the tournament 27th.

Okinawa’s two amateur players in the Daikin Orchid did well, though. Shinobu Moromizato, who just graduated form high school, and junior high schooler Mika Miyazato were good. Hundreds of children turned out to support the youngsters. “I don’t feel cold at all,” said one boy from Urasoe. “I’m happy to see Ai-chan play. I’m going to be a professional golfer like her.”

Miyazato struggled throughout the tournament, looking tired and sometimes lonely as she walked the body numbing course. Conditions weren’t to her liking, and from the start her putting was off, first missing a 30cm putt on the par four hole. “My long shots were okay, but not the close game,” she said. “People came to see me but I couldn’t do my best.”

Still, she says the year’s tour is only beginning and she’s sure everything will be okay. She’s scheduled to play in America’s Women’s Golf Tournament starting March 24th, and says “I’m sure I’m going to catch the feeling, and I’m so much looking forward to meeting Anika Sorenstam.

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