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Ai Miyazato captures 1st JLPGA tourney win of year

Date Posted: 2005-05-19

Teen sensation Ai Miyazato scored a final round eight under par 64 to win the Vernal Ladies Open Golf Tournament. Her final total score was 13 under par.

She picks up \21.6 million for the victory at Century Golf Club in Fukuoka. It was her first singles win of the year, playing in a variety of tournaments in the United States and Asia. Enroute to victory, she scored eight birdies in the fist two rounds.

The win pushed to the lead in winnings among Japan’s top woman golfers this season with a total of \31,987,000.

Akiko Fukushima was the distant second at 5 under. Rii Onkei of South Korea was third at the vernal Ladies Open.

Miyazato made her break from the rest on the second day of the tournament with a score of 8 under par. The second best score on that day was 2 under par at 70. “When I realized how far ahead of the others I was, I first became very nervous,” Miyazato said afterwards. “But then I remembered a book by Seattle Mariners’ Ichiro where he stated that when you are on top of your game you have to accept that as a fact of life. Then I could relax,” Miyazato said.

Besides being on top of women’s golf money list, Miyazato also ended fourth on a different list. Okinawa taxation bureau placed her on the fourth place on prefecture’s 2004 top taxpayers’ list having paid a total of \95,705,000 from her total earnings that besides prize money includes income from advertising endorsements and other sources.

The tax office said that Miyazato is the youngest ever to make it to taxpayers’ top 20 in the prefecture. However, Miyazato’s tax bill was still a far cry from what the prefecture’s top taxpayer had to pay. Yuji Takahashi, the chairman of Unimat business group who resides in Ueno, Miyako Island, paid \502,336,000 in taxes in 2004.

The 19-year-old was seemingly on a roll early in the year when she and Rui Kitada captured the title at the Women’s Golf Tournament at South Africa’s Fun Court Hotel course. It boosted Miyazato to a second place on 2004 Japan ranking as she pushed over \100,000,000 in winnings.

Only days later she gave one of the top names on the ladies tour, Cari Webb, a run for the money in the ANZ Australian Ladies Golf Masters. Despite rounds of 16 and 18 under par, Miyazato finished second to Webb.

Homecoming to the Daikin Orchid Ladies PGA event on Okinawa was dismal, as Miyazato could not defend her title won a year earlier in her first professional tournament. Her performance matched the bone chilling, rainy weather with a 27th place finish at four over par 76 the final round.

She said “I did my best” as she competed with the world’s best, Anika Sorenstam, at the Nabisco Ladies Professional Golf Tournament. The March event was only her second major tournament, winding up with a 44th place finish.

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