Augusta, Georgia, United States: Japanese teenager Tsubasa Kajitani surprised even herself by scoring an historic victory in the second edition of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
The 17-year-old former Japan Junior Championship winner defeated American Emilia Migliaccio on the first hole of a sudden-death play-off.
In so doing she became the first Asian player to win at Augusta National – a feat former two-time Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship winner Hideki Matsuyama will try to emulate at next week’s Masters Tournament.
Reflecting on her shock success, Kajitani said: “I can’t really imagine [the reception I will receive] when I’m back to Japan. But hopefully everybody is happy and will enjoy. I’m looking forward to going back to Japan.”
Kajitani sealed her success with a gutsy two-putt par from 45 feet on the 18th green and celebrated with a mini fist-pump before exchanging hugs with her caddie and Migliaccio.
“To be honest, when I came to the States, I didn’t expect that I’m going to win the tournament. Then day-by-day I have been confident and then I won the tournament,” added Kajitani, who returned rounds of 73 and 72 at Champions Retreat before closing with an even-par 72 over the hallowed fairways of Augusta for a one-over-par 217 total.
Six players – Pauline Roussin-Bouchard, Rachel Heck, Emma Spitz, Karen Fredgaard and second-round co-leaders Ingrid Lindblad and Rose Zhang – tied for third place, one stroke behind Kajitani and Migliaccio.
China’s Ye Lei claimed 15th place on 223 with Japan’s Nanako Ueno equal 19th on 225.
As a precocious 15-year-old, Kajitani finished joint 17th in the second edition of the Women’s Asia-Pacific Amateur in her home country in early 2019. That year, she was runner-up at the Australian Women’s Amateur Championship and tied for ninth in the Japan Women’s Open.
Her good form continued last year when she was runner-up at the Avondale Amateur in Australia and appeared in three Japan LPGA Tour events.
Kajitani, who began the week at 26th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), entered the final round at Augusta National tied for fifth place. While others were jockeying for position and going through ups and downs, she remained steady and continued to quietly navigate her way around.
After a bogey on the par-three fourth hole, Kajitani rebounded with birdies on eight, 14 and 15. But she ran into trouble with a three-putt double-bogey on the par-four 17th and thought that her hopes may have been dashed.
However, her caddie, Chad Lamsback, told her to shake it off and focus for only one more hole. She did, made par to tie Migliaccio with the clubhouse lead, then sat back to watch the final three groups finish.
The play-off returned to the 18th hole and Migliaccio hit her second shot right of the right greenside bunker. Her third found the bunker and she finished with a bogey-five.
Migliaccio, 15th in the WAGR, shot two-under 70 and finished a full hour before the final group completed their rounds. She was pleased with how she played when she was done – she made five birdies on the day – but moment by moment, her name started creeping toward the top of the leaderboard without hitting a shot.
Although Migliaccio was pleased to find herself in a play-off, she was not pleased with her performance in it.
“It’s hard to bogey and lose to a par,” Migliaccio said. “If they birdie, it’s like, well, did everything I could. But I wanted to hit a better shot and felt good over the club and was happy to be in the fairway but it just didn’t work out.”