Shenzhen, China: Nanako Inagaki became the first Japanese winner of an ANNIKA Invitational tournament with a wire-to-wire victory in the global all-girls event at the Mission Hills Dongguan resort in southern China.
The 17-year-old Inagaki carded a closing three-under 69 over the Annika Course to finish on 207, nine-under-par for the 54-hole tournament.
However, the 2017 Golf Digest Japan Junior Cup winner needed a birdie putt on the final hole to hold off a thrilling challenge from Chinese Taipei’s An Ho-yu.
The 14-year-old 2016 ANNIKA Invitational at Mission Hills champion fired a 66, including six birdies in an incredible back nine of 30, to finish on 208, one behind her playing partner.
Inagaki and An qualify for the ANNIKA Invitational USA presented by Rolex by virtue of their top-three finishes. They will be joined by China’s Judy Yin and Chou Yi-ting of Chinese Taipei who tied for third on five-under.
There was more success for mainland China in the Girls’ 9-10 category with a win for 10-year-old Han Zilin while Hong Kong’s Arianna Lau, also 10, finished runner-up.
Launched in 2011 as China’s first all-girls event, this year’s ANNIKA Invitational offered ranking points from The R&A and China Golf Association.
Some of the top ranked juniors in China were up against the largest ever contingent of overseas golfers, representing countries and territories including Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, Mongolia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore and the United States.
“It’s really incredible how much our event has grown since its inception in 2011,” said 10-time Major champion Annika Sorenstam, recently ranked sixth on ESPN’s list of all-time Most Dominant Athletes. “We’re delighted to have such an exceptional partner in Mission Hills and look forward to another successful tournament in 2019.”
During her visit, Sorenstam spent time with the players both on and off the course, sharing the knowledge and experiences that have made her the most successful female golfer of all time with 89 international wins as a professional.
Tenniel Chu, Group Vice-Chairman of Mission Hills, said: “We are always delighted to welcome Annika back to her home away from home at Mission Hills and we are in awe of the time and effort she devotes to growing golf globally, including here in China.”