On college break from the United States, Vietnam’s two standout players are relishing their return to home soil as they once more find themselves in the limelight – and going head-to-head.
While Kawasaki made waves during her freshman year with the golf team at Boston University, Nguyen is now into her third year at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, where she has been a key member of the golfing line-up.
But it’s at KN Golf Links in Cam Ranh, a new resort destination taking shape along an eight-kilometre stretch of white sand less than an hour’s flight from Ho Chi Minh City, where the latest chapter in their intriguing rivalry is taking place.
At last week’s Vietnam Ladies Amateur Open, Nguyen fired three rounds of 73 over the Greg Norman-designed links course to beat Kawasaki by three strokes, reversing the result of 2018.
Now, attention turns to the fourth leg of the 2019-20 Faldo Series Asia season that is being staged in conjunction with the Vietnam Junior Open.
In The R&A World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) event at KN Golf Links, Kawasaki is bidding for a third successive Faldo Series Vietnam Championship success, which would match the feat of Nguyen, who secured her own hat-trick from 2014-2016.
Although Nguyen is 434 spots ahead of Kawasaki in the WAGR in 450th place, there is currently precious little to choose between the duo.
“It’s good to see that playing college golf in the United States has helped them both to make excellent progress,” said six-time Major champion Sir Nick Faldo, Founder of the Faldo Series. “They are at the vanguard of golf development in Vietnam and I very much look forward to watching their golfing careers develop in the coming years.”
Two years ago, Kawasaki, whose father is Japanese and mother is from Vietnam, was joint sixth in the Girls’ Under-21 Division at the 12th Faldo Series Asia Grand Final at Laguna Lăng Cô.
However, due to college commitments she was unable to participate in the latest Asia Grand Final, held four months ago.
While victory either for her or Nguyen this week would likely provoke a similar dilemma next year, Faldo said: “Naturally, we would like to see Hanako and Thao My taking part in the 14th Faldo Series Asia Grand Final, which is scheduled to be held in March 2020. But we understand the scheduling complications for those qualifiers who are studying overseas.”
Like his female namesake, Nguyen Bao Long is also in good spirits following his triumph in the Vietnam Amateur Championship and will be seeking back-to-back victories at KN Golf Links, where the layout is expected to pose a tough test for competitors.
Simon Mees, General Manager at KN Golf Links, said: “We are honoured that the Vietnam Golf Association decided upon KN Golf Links as the venue for this year’s Vietnam Junior Open and Faldo Series Vietnam Championship.
“Having held the national men’s and ladies’ amateur Open championships last week, the course is in fantastic condition. As the design and grass type allows the course to play like a true links with plenty or run and roll, it will be a good test for the players. I’m sure they’ll really enjoy the experience.”
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.
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, while recent LPGA Tour winners include Thidapa Suwannapura (2010 Faldo Series Asia Grand Final Girls’ champion) and Nasa Hataoka (2016 Faldo Series Asia Grand Final Girls’ champion) who claimed her third LPGA Tour title in March.