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Okinawa favorite captures first major LPGA golf title

Date Posted: 2005-10-06

Capitalizing on a six-stroke lead going into the final 18 holes, the island’s adorable teen golfer rolled to a victory at the Japan Women’s Open this week.

Ai Miyazato, the 20-year-old sensation from Higashi Village, claimed the win as her first major tournament victory as a professional, adding to four earlier tour titles this year. She now has ten winner’s circle tallies since joining the LPGA Tour, the youngest player ever to do so.

She eclipsed the record held since 1968, when Hall of Fame player Hisako Higuchi took the title at age 23. Miyazato struggled briefly on the back nine at Yokohama’s Totsuka Country Club West Course, finishing the final round one over par while claiming the title with a five-under-par total 283.

Akiko Fukushima finished second with 288, ending the final round with a par 72.

Miyazato’s been on a roll since the beginning of the year, when she took the World Cup title in South Africa with teammate Rui Kitada. Days later she narrowly missed a title at the ANZ Ladies Masters in Australia, finishing second to Karrie Webb.

The local youngster, who entered golf’s professional circuit as a teen in 2003, posted her first pro victory at the Miyagi Cup. She went on to win five more tournaments in 2003, and rolled on in 2004 posting nearly a dozen Top 10 finishes enroute to earning more than Y115 million.

She says the Japan Women’s Open win made her “extremely happy, but the pressure was huge.” Only three months since her 20th birthday, Miyazato has publicly declared her goal is to become the number one woman golfer in the world, a feat that would have her replacing her golfing idol, Annika Sorenstam, atop the leader boards.

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