ST ANDREWS (April 12): Japan’s Yuna Nishimura feels her loss in the play-off at last year’s inaugural Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific (WAAP) has made her a better player as she aims to go one better in front of her home fans this year.
The 18-year-old from Osaka was one of four players tied for the lead at the end of regulation play at Singapore’s Sentosa Golf Club – and then one of two survivors after the first two extra holes. A bogey on the third play-off hole ended her spirited effort however as Thailand’s Atthaya Thitikul claimed the honours.
The second edition of the WAAP will be played at The Royal Golf Club in Hokota, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan, from April 25-28.
Nishimura is one of eight players representing the host nation. Yuka Yasuda is the highest-ranked player in the team at number 13 on the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR). And she showed that she will be a formidable force after finishing tied third alongside the Philippines’ Yuka Saso in the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur last week.
With a win and a runner-up place in her last two starts in Australia, however, the world number 51 Nishimura is definitely the one to watch.
The other players in the Japanese contingent include the 74th ranked Yuri Yoshida, Ayaka Furue (75), Tsubasa Kajitani, Miyuu Goto, Sae Ogura and Riri Sadoyama. With home advantage favouring them and four players ranked inside the top 100, the hosts have an excellent chance in the championship.
Nishimura said, “I had a wonderful experience in Singapore last year. That definitely was one of my special tournaments. Obviously, I wanted to win, but the play-off loss pushed me to become a better player. I’m happy that I have an opportunity to play the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific once again and I’m really excited to be playing it here in Japan.
“I feel there will be a little bit of pressure from playing in front of my friends, family and fans but I also believe they will become a huge source of strength for me.”
Nishimura will go into the WAAP in good form. Playing in Australia in the weeks before the Media Golf Day, she won the Riversdale Cup and then finished second in the Rene Erichsen Salver.
“That was nice,” said Nishimura. “I was struggling with my golf at the end of last year. But I did some training (with coach Toshimasa Nakajima) and I was well prepared for my trip to Australia.
“So, I’m happy, especially on winning the Riversdale Cup. It definitely adds a little bit to my confidence level before the WAAP.
“I think my golf is good right now. My driving distance is little bit longer than last year and I feel more comfortable with my putting. Also, I am able to control myself much better. So, yes…I’m looking forward to playing at Royal Golf Club.”
Nishimura should also benefit from the fact that she played in nine professional tournaments on the Japan LPGA last year and made the cut in seven of them. She has also played some practice rounds at the Royal Golf Club.
“I learned a lot by playing the pro events. I played with Teresa Lu (former LPGA Tour player) and Bo- Mee Lee (twice Japan LPGA Money List winner). They always play with a smile and I think that way of playing is wonderful. Also, I played with Jiyai Shin (winner of 11 LPGA Tour titles) and her hybrid shots were really great. I feel I experienced the world class level,” said Nishimura, whose best finish was 11th in the Studio Alice LPGA Open.
“I have played The Royal Golf Club twice and it is an amazing golf course. I’d say it is a little bit long and tough. So, I think I need to have a good game plan and make less bogeys.
“But my golf is good right now. My driving distance is a little bit longer than last year and I feel comfortable with my putting. So, I’m really looking forward to and excited about this year’s WAAP.”
The field at Royal Golf Club comprises 17 players ranked inside the top-100 of the WAGR. The champion will earn a spot in two women’s majors – the AIG Women’s British Open and the Evian Championship. She will also receive an invite to the 2020 Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
The Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific championship has been developed by The R&A and Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC) to unearth emerging talent and provide a pathway for Asia’s elite women amateurs to emerge on the international stage.
The R&A launched the Women in Golf Charter last year and is committed to increasing the participation of women in the sport. The WAAP is one of several key women’s championships conducted by the governing body and a significant initiative along with the APGC to drive the popularity of women’s golf in the region.
Kabaya Ohayo Group and Rolex are the championship’s Official Scoring Partners and Evian are Official Water Supplier. IMG assists with championship staging and TV broadcasting.
For more information on the championship, visit the website at randa.org/WAAP. For updates, like the championship’s Facebook page and follow @WAAPGolf on Twitter and Instagram.
Entry to the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific championship is free of charge.