Japan Strikes Double Australian Amateur Gold

19th Jan 2018

Never before has there been an Australian Amateur Championship winner from Japan, but now we have two.

The time-honoured titles, presented by Swinging Skirts, were whisked to the Land of the Rising Sun by firstly Suzuka Yamaguchi with an awe-inspiring performance in a 6&5 win over the highly fancied Ayean Cho at Lake Karrinyup Country Club.

And less than an hour later, another impressive performance culminated in victory for Keita Nakajima in the men’s division, bowling over the nominal favourite David Micheluzzi 4&3.

Yamaguchi was, remarkably, 12 under par through the final’s 31 holes, rolling in two eagles and 10 birdies in a display belying her tender 17 years.

She vowed to return and “hopefully do well” at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open next month in Adelaide – and playing as she did today, you could not put it past her.

“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.”

Cho, for the second time in three years, was relegated to the runner-up position, but in defeat should hold her head high to have gone so far through the 36-hole finale against the Japanese wrecking ball.

Nakajima was an early leader against the Victorian who had been red-hot in winning his past two events and only being pushed once past the 15th in match play all week.

But try as he might, Micheluzzi couldn’t ever get on level footing despite having several key chances early in the afternoon’s second round.

Nakajima made six birdies in his morning round, then another four in the afternoon to keep every challenge at bay, later paying great tribute to the South Australian-based national coach of the Japanese team, Gareth Jones.

“Without Gareth, I would not be here today,” Nakajima said.

“He especially teach me short game and it was very big today.”

Nakajima twice made spectacular sand saves, once for a birdie to halve the 25th hole with Micheluzzi pressing; the other on the 32nd hole when short-sided to give his opponent no wriggle room at all.

“The pressure was good today. David is a really good player, I was happy to play well against him on such a special day.”

Nakajima, also 17, has one eye already on the professional ranks and is hopeful he, too, will return to take up his berth at November’s Australian Open in Sydney.

A special thank you must go to all the staff and volunteers at Lake Karrinyup for all their efforts during the fantastic week of golf.

Congratulations to all involved.