Tokyo, Japan: Safe driving combined with mature course management paved the way for Yuta Kamiya’s dramatic come-from-behind victory in the Faldo Series Japan Championship.
Overturning a five-stroke deficit, Kamiya claimed the title on a countback from overnight leader Miyu Abe when inclement weather that plagued the three-day tournament meant a sudden-death play-off was not possible.
“I’m so happy to win this tournament,” said Kamiya, who posted a 54-hole aggregate of one-over-par 217 to head the standings in the Boys’ Under-21 category at the Shizu Hills Country Club in the seventh leg of the 2018-19 Faldo Series Asia season.
To his surprise, his total also proved good enough to top the overall leaderboard after a testing final-day for Abe in The R&A World Amateur Golf Ranking event.
As well as striking the ball long and straight off the tee, 19-year-old Kamiya negotiated his way around the course with considerable maturity, avoiding the trouble spots that caught out many of the players in the 140-strong field.
“I was pleased with my driving and course management throughout the week,” said Kamiya, who can now look forward to spearheading the Japanese challenge at the 13th Faldo Series Asia Grand Final, to be hosted by Sir Nick Faldo at Laguna Lăng Cô in Danang, Vietnam in March, 2019.
Abe was in control for the first two days, backing up an opening two-under 70 with a bogey-free 69 to give her a comfortable cushion heading into the final round.
But when she double-bogeyed the par-four 13th, the five-shot lead from Kamiya she enjoyed at the start of the last day was wiped out.
However, Abe’s hopes were raised once more when she made her solitary birdie of the day at the 14th and then re-established a two-shot lead after Kamiya bogeyed 15.
To complete a topsy-turvy round, Abe dropped strokes at both 17 and 18 to sign for 78 and hand the initiative back to Kamiya who carded a 73.
Consolation for Abe came from the fact that she won the Girls’ Under-21 section by two shots from highly-rated Sara Oto to ensure she will compete in the Grand Final.
Accompanying Kamiya and Abe to Vietnam will be Yusuke Itsubo (Boys’ Under-18 winner), Genki Otani (Boys’ Under-16 winner) and Natsumi Hayakawa (Girls’ Under-16 winner).
Otani recovered from leaking five shots in the final four holes of a second-round 80 to close with a bogey-free 67, the best round of the week.
For her part, Hayakawa improved each day with scores of 74, 73 and 71 to upstage tournament favourite Arina Hiraki, winner of the Girls’ Under-16 title at the 12th Faldo Series Asia Grand Final.
Hiraki suffered a terrible start with an opening-hole double-bogey followed by another dropped stroke at the second en route to a 78 that left her well off the pace and with too much ground to make up.
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.