Golf: Japan win Queen Sirikit Cup, hosts Singapore finish joint-best fourth

Japanese golfer Mizuki Hashimoto (pictured) won the cup together with her teammates Ayaka Tezuka and Miku Ueta. PHOTO: LAGUNA NATIONAL GOLF RESORT CLUB/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - As a junior golfer, Mizuki Hashimoto was inspired by a meeting with compatriot and former world No. 1 Ai Mizayato.

Ahead of this week's Queen Sirikit Cup at the par-72 Masters course at Laguna National, the 19-year-old thought: "How great it would be if we could emulate her and win the tournament for Japan just like she did in 2002?"

That would be no small feat as South Korea had won the last six editions.

However, on Friday (May 27), Hashimoto and her 17-year-old teammates Ayaka Tezuka and Miku Ueta did just that, as they delivered a gross combined score (only the best two scores of each round count) of 20-under 556 and romped to a seven-stroke victory over New Zealand.

South Korea finished third at 10-under 566, while hosts Singapore were fourth out of 13 teams on nine-under 567, which is their joint-best finish since the tournament began in 1979.

It was by no means straightforward for Japan as the New Zealanders had closed the gap to just one stroke after the third round on Thursday.

Ueta, who contributed a final-round 68 to finish third in the individual standings with a five-under 283, said: "I could hear my heart pumping from the beginning to the end, but we were able to use the pressure as motivation to do well."

Hashimoto, who lived up to her top billing as the Women's Amateur Asia-Pacific champion by topping the individual standings at nine-under 279 despite a final-day 73, shared that besides playing steady and consistent golf, the team benefited from a new routine to win Japan’s seventh title.

She said: "We usually play another practice round after lunch, but this week, we focused on recovery sessions at the gym or pool instead, and it worked."

Meanwhile, hosts Singapore - comprising Shannon Tan, Jaymie Ng and Yoko Tai - also had plenty to cheer, as they matched fourth-place finishes in 1983 and 1985, although fewer teams competed then.

Their coach Steven Giuliano said: "Shannon led great the whole week and did amazingly well, taking on the expectation and responsibility of playing on the home course.

"Jaymie delivered perhaps her best performance on this type of links course, and was unfazed by the occasion, hitting good shots and being very steely in general. Yoko was not at her best but it was a great team effort overall."

Tan led the way for the Republic, finishing second, one shot behind Hashimoto in the individual standings.

Despite playing with an itchy and swollen left middle finger after being stung by a bee before the second round, the 18-year-old played four solid rounds and could even have overtaken the Japanese if not for a double bogey on the 12th on Friday.

The 18-year-old credited course access at Laguna for the team's good performance, as they played six practice rounds in 10 days before the competition.

Due to start her four-year scholarship with Texas Tech University in August, she said: "The best result unexpected, but we are proud of our achievement.

"Personally, I'm happy to go 65 holes without a bogey to beat my personal best by one, and I was able to find an average of 14 to 15 greens in regulation, but I feel I didn't make enough birdies.

"This result will give me more confidence going forward in my ambition to go for the LPGA and Japan LPGA Q-School and turn pro."

Tan will now set her sights on the inaugural LLD International, an international mixed-gender amateur event, at the same venue from May 30 to June 1.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.