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Field wide open for weekend Daikin Orchid

By: Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2006-03-03

Okinawa’s local golf sensation captured the Daikin Orchid Ladies Golf championship two years ago, then fell to a dismal 27th place last year.

Ai Miyazato, who has now turned professional, isn’t even participating in this year’s event.. Miyazato, who first came into the golf spotlight in 2002, has been performing well on the international circuit the past few months, picking up several key trophies.

This year, there’s no pre-ordained favorite for the prestigious ladies event.

The 2006 Daikin Orchid Ladies Golf Tournament kicks off tomorrow at the Ryukyu Golf Club in Tamagusuku, drawing more than 90 golfers for the 54-hole stroke play event. The Japan Ladies Golf Association members comprise the majority, with amateurs rounding out the card. The top 50 performers move to Sunday’s final round.

Orie Fujino battled Michiko Hattori last year, edging Hattori by one stroke to win the Daikin Orchid in front of 25,000 spectators. Ai Miyazato, who couldn’t get her golf together, finished a dismal 27th.

The 20-year-old Miyazato won the Daikin Orchid in 2004, tallying a 10-under-par 72 to win \10,800,000 in the annual event begun in 1997. She was the youngest ever to win the tournment.

Miyazato won the Women’s World Cup Golf Tournament last year, but then crashed in December when she finished last among 120 competitors at the Asia Pacific Okinawa Open Golf Tournament. She was tackling the tough Asian men’s tour for the first time.

‘Ever onward with Okinawa’ is the Daikin Orchid theme this year. The tournament has posted \80,000,000 in prize money, with the winner to walk away with \14,400,000. There are also special prizes being presented, including a room air conditioner by Daikin, a fishing boat from Yanmar, and Ryukyu glass as the Prefecture Governor’s Prize.

The thee-day tournament is being sponsored by Daikin Kogyo Ltd. Co., and organized by Ryukyu Broadcasting Co., Ltd.
Another Okinawa pro, Shinobu Moromizato from Nago, joins the action this year. She turned professional last August, and earned a seed to play this year. She’s also entered in the America’s Ladies Cup upcoming.

An amateur tournament begins today at the Ryukyu Golf Club, with 230 ladies on the links. Nine of those are Okinawa amateurs. Miyuki Uehara, Satsuki Oshiro, Tomoko Kanai, Rena Teruya, Yukari Higa, Chiharu Oshiro, Yukari Kawamitsu, Mirai Yonaha and Mayo Yonaha will represent the host island.

The Daikin Orchid Ladies Golf Tournament is doubly popular because its staff is primarily volunteers. More than 300 ladies are donating their services, including on a project promoting golf to junior high school students. The tournament is donating books to junior high schools, and is using the tournament to promote Okinawa culture as well as sports.

Okinawa’s golfers have been donating to the project, which to date exceeds \66,000,000. The tournament committee has invited Tamagusuku Junior High School students to attend the tournament and receive free lessons. The youngsters will also have access to the press room to see how the media covers a golf tournament.

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