Tokyo, Japan: Little more than two years after winning the Girls’ Under-16 title at the Faldo Series Asia Grand Final, Nasa Hataoka is poised to mount a challenge at this week’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, the third Major of the year.
In the 10th Faldo Series Asia Grand Final at China’s Mission Hills Golf Club in March, 2016, the diminutive Hataoka impressed Sir Nick Faldo with her shot-making skills and calm demeanour.
And the five-foot two-inch tall Japanese is already fulfilling the promise that Sir Nick saw in her, posting her maiden LPGA Tour win at last week’s Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.
“It was a fantastic performance,” said six-time Major champion Faldo. “To shoot a 63 in the final round and end up winning by six shots was truly remarkable.
“Based on what I saw of her during the Faldo Series Asia Grand Final, I don’t think it’s a surprise that Nasa has done so well – even if it’s happened a little bit quicker than we might have expected.
“What particularly impressed me when watching her at Mission Hills was the way in which she handled herself. Despite being younger and smaller than most of her rivals in the tournament, she was far from over-awed. She actually seemed to relish the challenge.”
A plus-five handicapper who was 60th in The R&A’s World Amateur Golf Ranking at the time, Hataoka was already being hailed as one of Asia’s brightest female prospects.
Among many highlights in 2015, she had been a runaway winner in the Girls’ 15-17 segment at the IMG Academy Junior World Golf Championships at San Diego’s Torrey Pines as well as emerging victorious in the Faldo Series Asia Japan Championship.
Further kudos came her way when she contended in the Japan LPGA Tour’s Hisako Higuchi Ponta Ladies tournament, eventually finishing in a share of seventh place.
Hataoka secured her LPGA Tour card by being medallist at the 2016 Qualifying Tournament at the age of 17. After a year of acclimatisation during her rookie season, Hataoka has taken the LPGA Tour by storm with five top-10 finishes in her last six starts, including a play-off loss to Thai Ariya Jutanugarn at May’s Kingsmill Championship.
“I wish her every success this week at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. I’ll be following her progress closely,” said Faldo.
“It would be wonderful is Nasa could emulate another former Faldo Series Asia winner, Tseng Ya-ni, and become a Major champion.”
The 2018-19 Faldo Series Asia season is supported by The R&A and endorsed by the Asian Tour and the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation. The International Junior Golf Academy is a partner of the Faldo Series.
As well as two events in China and Thailand, championships are scheduled for Australia, Bangladesh, Chinese-Taipei, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.
Recognised as the only global amateur series for boys and girls, the Faldo Series was established in 1996, expanding to Asia in 2006.
Today, 40 Faldo Series tournaments take place in 30-plus countries worldwide, touching more than 7,000 golfers each year.
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