Home favourite Yuka Yasuda, leading a tournament in the final round for the first time, provided a masterclass in frontrunning as she left the field in her wake and won the second Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific championship (WAAP) at The Royal Golf Club by eight shots on Sunday.
The 18-year-old from Kobe started the final round leading by two shots. After making a birdie on the opening hole, she never lost the honour over the next 17 tees and finished with a bogey-free seven-under-par 65 to tally 11-under par 277 for the championship.
Atthaya Thitikul (71), champion at the inaugural WAAP in Singapore, finished runner-up at three-under-par while the Korean duo of Ye Won Lee (70) and Yaeeun Hong (73) were third and fourth respectively.
“Honestly, I wasn’t expecting to win the championship. But so many people came out today and they cheered and motivated me and I am happy that I could play some good golf,” said Yasuda.
“This is such a huge win for me. I am trying to become a professional golfer and I am sure this is going to open many doors for me in the future.
“I get the opportunity to play two major championships with this win [the AIG Women’s British Open and the Evian Championship] and I am so excited about that. That experience will definitely help me become a better player in the future.”
Two shots behind the leaders after a bogey on the 14th hole on Saturday, Yasuda finished with one eagle and three birdies to grab sole possession of the lead by two at the end of the third round and increased that advantage to six shots with four birdies in her first five holes on Sunday.
Yasuda hit it close with her second shot on the first hole. She seemed to be in trouble on the second when her tee shot went into the trees but a superb second left her 20ft short of the pin and she made the putt. On the third, she poured in a 15ft putt. At that point, she was eight-under-par for her last seven holes.
Yasuda made birdies on the par-4 fifth and par-5 eighth holes but equally important were her difficult par saves from the bunkers on the seventh and ninth holes. That helped her make the turn in 31 and nine-under-par for the tournament, seven ahead of Thitikul.
On her back nine, Yasuda added two more birdies on the par-5 13th and 16th holes to complete a dominant win.
“I played a perfect round of golf today except for a couple of second shots after which I had to make good recoveries. I thought those two pars [on seven and nine] were very important to keep the momentum going my way,” said Yasuda.
“The finish yesterday was important for me because it gave me the lead. Being chased is as hard as chasing the leader, so I needed to begin my final round well. I think the start today was more critical because it helped me settle down.”
World No. 9 Thitikul, the highest ranked player in the field, started with a birdie and then three-putted for a bogey on the second from less than four feet. She played solid golf after that but could not rustle up enough birdies to put any kind of pressure on Yasuda.
“I played okay. I missed some birdie putts but Yasuda played such a solid round and she showed me a great performance,” said Thitikul tipping her hat to the champion.
“I am happy. I came in as the defending champion and I enjoyed being here. We played in some very tough conditions and that is going to be a great learning experience for me.”
Japan’s Yuna Nishimura (73), who lost in a play-off to Thitikul last year, was in fifth place at one-over par, while China’s Lei Ye (72) was sixth, one shot behind her.
Australia’s Becky Kay (75), who shot an eight-under-par 64 to lead on the opening day, was among four players tied for the seventh place along with Abegail Arevalo of the Philippines (70), Ayaka Furue of Japan (72) and Ye-been Sohn of Korea (73).
The Championship has an ‘Elite’ status in the women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR). The starting field was 80 players from 19 countries, including 17 players ranked inside the top-100 of the WAGR. As champion, Yuka Yasuda earns a place in two of the five 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.