Date: February 15, 2018
Author: Mark Hayes

Yamaguchi franks AusAm pedigree

There's quite the pedigree chart building from the Women's Australian Amateur Championship.

In fact, with no disrespect to previous winners, including Stacey Peters (nee Keating) who has enjoyed a successful pro career, the post-2012 honour roll is nothing short of exemplary.

You've probably heard of Lydia Ko (2012) and Minjee Lee 2013/14).

You might still be learning about world No.81 Min-ji Park in 2016 and world No.11 Hye-jin Choi in 2017.

But you're possibly not yet across this year's champ, Suzuka Yamaguchi.

Stay tuned to this week's ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open and you're likely to learn a lot more.

The Japanese 17-year-old carded a 68 today to join the throng at four under par.

Clearly, low amateur is more than a possibility for the polite and softly spoken teen.

But her sparkling young face belies a fierce inner competitive fire that only occasionally bubbles to the surface.

Partly in direct reponse, partly using a translator, Yamaguchi responded that she "loves Australia" after her win at Lake Karrinyup in Perth in January which she followed up with a smashing victory at the Avondale Amateur in Sydney a week later.

So can you win in Adelaide as well?

"There are so many professionals here, I'm not sure," she replied with a cheeky smile that made it seem like there was more in her tank that she modestly was letting on.

"I'm nervous, yes … but if I can do my play the best, I will be OK."

But even this isn't the biggest stage on which she's trodden in her young life.

Yamaguchi qualified for the 2015 US Women's Open as a 14-year-old, only just missing the cut but ahead of players the calibre of Ariya Jutanugarn and Sandra Gal.

So does that experience leave you in good stead here? 

"Yes, but my body has changed a bit … so this is different.

"I hit it better and am better player, maybe."

By maybe, read "definitely".

Stick this name in your black book.

Yamaguchi has a wildly determined streak. She didn't want to lose to a Korean again at the Australian Amateur after bowing out to the eventual runner-up in the first round of match play in 2017.

With that in mind against supremely talented A-yean Cho, the top Korean player in Perth, she chopped down her opponent 6&5 in the 36-hole final and was a remarkable 12 under through 31 holes in doing so.

"My game's very good now, very happy," Yamaguchi said with that same grin.

So with that in mind, what is the goal this week – win, low amateur or make the cut?

"I'd like to win, of course.

"But I have to concentrate on the next shot, rather than big picture."

Only three more days' of this rising star's stunning stroke-making will clarify that picture, but you can already see the clear trend.