Manila, Philippines: Japan set the seal on another outstanding year for their young golfing stars with a memorable victory in the 29th edition of the Nomura Cup.
With 21-year-old Yuta Sugiura and 17-year-old Minato Oshima to the fore, Japan surged to a seven-stroke triumph over the Masters Course at Manila Southwoods Golf and Country Club.
It was a record-equalling 10th title for Japan in the event that was inaugurated in 1963 and is also known as the Asia-Pacific Amateur Golf Team Championship.
Three shots clear at the top after three rounds with Singapore, Korea and New Zealand hot on their heels, Sugiura and Oshima stood firm to ensure Japan’s overnight advantage never came under serious threat.
While Sugiura returned a rock-solid, bogey-free four-under-par 68, Oshima posted a 71 that included a double-bogey seven at the last. That gave the Japanese a fourth-round aggregate of 139 in the event in which the two best daily scores each day are counted.
The only team to break 140 on all four days, Japan’s overall total of 552 was 24-under-par with Singapore on 559 and Korea a further shot back in third.
Fittingly the battle for individual honours came down to the two highest-rated players in the field – Sugiua, 32nd in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) and 54th-placed Singaporean James Leow.
Leow led for most of the day and took a one-stroke advantage to the par-five 18th. But in a dramatic denouement, there was a three-shot swing in the Japanese player’s favour.
Still with an outside chance of team victory if he was able to finish with an eagle, Leow unselfishly and unhesitatingly opted to go for the green in two. However, he blocked his approach into a water hazard en route to a double-bogey seven which meant he signed for an even-par 72.
Sugiura, meanwhile, maintained his composure to make a birdie-four for a 14-under 274 total, two shots in front of Leow.
In what may well prove to be his amateur swansong, 25-year-old Leow – Southeast Asian Games gold medallist in the Philippines in 2019 – at least had the satisfaction of ensuring Singapore bettered their previous best fourth-place Nomura Cup finish.
Oshima’s final-hole blip meant he was pipped for third spot by Korean Jang Yubin. Such was the consistency of Oshima and Sugiura that the contribution of Riura Matsui – the third member of the Japanese team – was not required on any of the four days.
Despite a triple-bogey seven at the 10th, Brandon Han eked out a gutsy one-under 71, bettering Singaporean team-mates Leow and Ryan Ang (75) and ensuring his score was counted for the first time.
Thailand, winners of the Nomura Cup in 2017, the last time the event was staged, enjoyed a strong finish to claim fourth spot in the team standings on 565. Arsit Areephun, Ashita Piamkulvanich and Pongsapak Laopakdee all signed off with 69s as Thailand recorded the best final-day team tally of 138.
In fifth place on 566 were New Zealand, followed by Chinese Taipei (570), Malaysia (571), 10-time champions Australia (577), Hong Kong (578), India (581), Philippines (584), Indonesia (593), Guam (633), Pakistan (639), Mongolia (681) and United Arab Emirates (692).
The success over the Jack Nicklaus-designed Masters Course at Manila Southwoods completed a fabulous year for Japan’s amateur golfers in which there have been many high points.
In 2022, Keita Nakajima and Taiga Semikawa both held the number one spot in the WAGR before turning pro in the past two months. Semikawa was second individually at the World Amateur Team Championship for the Eisenhower Trophy in Paris and subsequently won twice on the Japan Golf Tour while still an amateur. One of those victories was in the Japan Open when Sugiura placed third.
Meanwhile, In May, Mizuki Hashimoto, Miku Ueta and Ayaka Tezuka triumphed in the Amateur Ladies Asia-Pacific Invitational Golf Team Championship for the Queen Sirikit Cup and the trio of Hashimoto, Ueta and Saki Baba were bronze medallists in the World Amateur Team Championship for the Espirito Santo Trophy. Furthermore, Baba was victorious in August’s US Women’s Amateur championship.