Following on from the victory last week by Yuka Yasuda in the Women’s Australian Master of the Amateurs at Royal Melbourne, Keita Nakajima and Suzuka Yamaguchi have taken out the respective men’s and women’s titles in Australia’s flagship amateur event becoming the first Japanese golfers to do so.
Nakajima is a famous name in Japanese golf, Tommy Nakajima one of the stars of the Japan Tour in the 1970’s and 1980’s and a producer of numerous top tens in major championship golf and, while Keita is no relation, the name Nakajima is again sure to get plenty of airplay in Japan as a result of this great victory.
Following the emergence of Hideki Matsuyama, who was a brilliant amateur golfer when winning the Asia Pacific Amateur twice and making the cut at the Masters as an amateur on two occasions and who is now one of the great players of world golf, these victories could well herald the arrival of two more stars from the Land of the Rising Sun.
Throw in the efforts of the Takumi Kanaya, who finished runner-up at the Japan Open as an amateur and then played well at the NSW Open and Australian Open Championships and remains an amateur then Japanese male golf is in great shape. Kanaya was not in this week’s field.
Nakajima today accounted for the winner of last week’s Master of the Amateurs title, David Micheluzzi, by a comfortable margin in a match in which he was never behind, taking a 2 up lead to lunch in the 36 hole final and extending that to 3 holes when he birdied the 3rd.
The margin was briefly reduced to 2 holes when Nakajima recorded his only bogey of the afternoon at the 6th hole but it was out to 3 holes soon after and he would eventually win at the 33rd hole by a 4&3 margin.
Nakajima paid tribute to Adelaide coach Gareth Jones who has been coaching elite Japanese amateurs over the past year.
“Without Gareth, I would not be here today,” Nakajima said. “He especially teach me short game and it was very big today.
“The pressure was good today. David is a really good player, I was happy to play well against him on such a special day.”
The match between 17 year old Yamaguchi and her final opponent, Ayean Cho of South Korea, was very much a one sided affair although through the first 15 holes there was never more then one hole in it. The match turned in the Japanese player’s favour when she won the 16th, 17th and 18th this morning to take a 3-up lead to lunch.
But it was in the early stages of her afternoon round when Yamaguchi closed the door on her opponent. She birdied the 1st, eagled the 2nd and then birdied the 3rd to establish a 6 up lead which she essentially maintained before winning 6&5.
“I’m very proud, very happy to win Australian Amateur … a tournament I really wanted to win,” said Yamaguchi, who played the 2015 US Women’s Open as a 14-year-old.
“I played last year and was beaten by a Korean (eventual finalist So-mi Lee in the match play phase) and didn’t want that to happen again this year.
“So I’m very excited to have played so well … it’s a big day for me. I can’t wait to come back to Adelaide and play. It’s my dream to play (on the) LPGA (Tour), so it will be great.”
Congratulations must go to Victorian David Micheluzzi for winning the Master of the Amateurs last week in Melbourne and then finishing runner--up in his national amateur championship.
NAT WHITTINGTON SHOT VISUALISATION
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