Cam Ranh, Vietnam: Hanako Kawasaki produced one of the great comebacks in Faldo Series Asia history to complete a memorable hat-trick of triumphs in the Faldo Series Vietnam Championship.
Nine shots off the pace in joint seventh place heading into the final round, the 19-year-old soared to the top of the leaderboard thanks to a blistering closing eight-under-par 64 at KN Golf Links, a Golf Course Facility Member of the Asian Golf Industry Federation.
On a clear, breezy day at the new resort destination taking shape along an eight-kilometre stretch of white sand less than an hour’s flight from Ho Chi Minh City, the talented Boston University freshman blew hot, snaring nine birdies against a solitary bogey in the fourth leg of the 2019-20 Faldo Series Asia season that was staged in conjunction with the Vietnam Junior Open.
Following earlier rounds of 77 and 76, Kawasaki posted a 54-hole total of one-over 217. That was four strokes ahead of overnight leader Tran Lam, who signed off with a 76 in the event which saw the final round broadcast live on Vietnam’s Golfnews TV as well as on Facebook and You Tube.
A Vietnamese citizen whose mother is from Vietnam and father is Japanese, Kawasaki burst out of the blocks with birdies at three of the first four holes and five on the front nine to turn in 31.
She picked up another shot at 11 before suffering her only blemish at the 13th. Further birdies at 14, 16 and 17 saw her rise to the top and a gutsy par-save at 18 where she got up-and-down from a greenside bunker ensured the turnaround.
“What a wonderful performance from Hanako,” said Sir Nick Faldo. “Congratulations to her on winning the Faldo Series Vietnam Championship for the third year in succession – and winning in such style.”
In so doing, Kawasaki also put behind her the disappointment of having relinquished her Vietnam Ladies Amateur Open to Nguyen Thao My at the Greg Norman-designed KN Golf Links layout the previous week.
Nguyen, who is into her third year as a member of the University of North Carolina Wilmington golf team, threatened to add a fourth Faldo Series Vietnam Championship to her resume before running up a quadruple-bogey eight at the 12th hole en route to a 74. She ended third overall on 223.
Kawasaki’s latest success will see her close the gap on her compatriot in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, in which she trailed Nguyen by more than 400 spots at the start of the week.
So often rivals, Kawasaki and Nguyen will join forces next week when they fly the flag for Vietnam in the Southeast Asian Amateur Golf Team Championships, which are being staged in their home country for the first time.
Whether Kawasaki is able to return to home soil to lead the Vietnam challenge in the 14th Faldo Series Asia Grand Final at Laguna Lăng Cô in March, 2020 remains to be seen.
Faldo said: “We’re hoping that it will be possible for Hanako to be with us at the Grand Final, but we understand the college commitments that she has.”
While Kawasaki’s Grand Final appearance is uncertain, Nguyen Phuong Toan (Boys’ Under-21), Nguyen Nhat Long (Boys’ Under-18), Tran Lam (Boys’ Under-15) and Nguyen Thao My and Doan Xuan Khue Minh (second and third in Girls’ Under-21) will take their places at Laguna Lăng Cô after qualifying via their respective age group categories at KN Golf Links.
The 2019-20 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 a series of qualifiers in Thailand, the FSA schedule includes three events in China and championships in Australia, Bangladesh, Chinese-Taipei, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam over the next 12 months.