Illinois, United States: Sir Nick Faldo has hailed the stirring efforts of teenage Japanese star Nasa Hataoka.
Winner of the Girls’ Under-16 title in the Faldo Series Asia Grand Final in 2016, Hataoka continued her meteoric rise at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, the third Major of the year.
A week after posting her maiden LPGA Tour triumph at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, Hataoka defied her top-level inexperience by producing another brilliant performance at the Kemper Lakes Golf Club in Kildeer, Illinois.
Nine strokes off the lead heading into the final round, Hataoka charged up the leaderboard with a breathtaking closing eight-under-par 64, highlighted by two eagles.
That gave her a 72-hole total of 10-under 278 and the clubhouse lead. More than an hour after she had finished, Hataoka was joined at 10-under by Koreans Ryu So-yeon and Park Sung-hyun, both Major champions.
At the first extra hole, Hataoka bowed out with a par, unable to match the birdies of Ryu and Park. At the second extra hole, Park prevailed with another birdie.
Despite losing out, Hataoka, who collected a cheque for US$290,806 and jumped to second on the LPGA Tour Money List with earnings this season of US$932,952, was far from downcast.
“Both Ryu and Park are Major champions and great players. I felt a little nervous but on the other hand, as I haven’t yet won a Major, I had nothing to lose,” said Hataoka, whose performance saw her soar seven places to 12th in the Rolex Women’s World Ranking.
Hataoka had caught the eye of Faldo when she appeared in the Faldo Series Asia Grand Final at China’s Mission Hills Golf Club just over two years ago.
Faldo said: “Congratulations to Nasa. What a fantastic final round. To shoot 64 at any time is a wonderful effort. To do it under the pressure of the last round in a Major championship is spectacular.
“When I watched her play two years ago, it was clear that she possessed star quality. The challenge for her now is to maintain the levels of excellence she has shown in the past fortnight.
“Her rapid rise will act as an inspiration to all those who take part in the Faldo Series. The quality of play in our tournaments around the world is extremely high and Nasa’s success further illustrates the benefits for these young players of taking part in high-level junior and amateur events.”
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. Past champions include Tseng Ya-ni and Rory McIlroy, both multiple Major winners.