“When I started playing in the States, that’s when I really started thinking about being No. 1, and that became a dream of mine.”
Ai Miyazato captured five LPGA tournaments in 2010, more than any other player on Tour.
Opening with back-to-back wins at the season-opening Honda LPGA Thailand and HSBC Women’s Champions, Miyazato became the first player in 44 years to win the first two events of the season. Ai added a second-career victory at the Evian Masters in 2011 following her triumph in 2009 when she became a Rolex First-Time Winner. She has seven-career LPGA victories.
Two years after making the Evian Masters her first LPGA win, Japan’s Ai Miyazato was back in Evian-les-Bains, France, last week, to raise the trophy all over again.
Ai Miyazato warming up at evian masters 2011
This time her victory had greater meaning.
“Obviously I’m excited again, but a lot has happened since my first win here two years ago,” she explained through a translator at the winner’s news conference. “This year, I really felt like I was playing for Japan instead of for myself.”
Miyazato was referencing the March earthquake that devastated northern Japan. Since then, along with fellow tour players Mika Miyazato and Momoko Ueda, she has led a foundation to aid still-suffering victims. The trio is wearing buttons on their caps, and they are distributing them to other players as well. Yani Tseng, Rolex Rankings No. 1, wore one at one of her press conferences
“It feels amazing, this is my favorite tournament so I’m really happy that I could win this again,” Miyazato said. “Especially [because] right now, Japan’s having a tough time. So I am just really happy to bring some happiness to Japan.”
And a whole lot more.
Since Japan’s tragedy, Miyazato, 26, has been donating prize money to the foundation that she promotes with a button pinned to her cap, “Never Give Up Japan.” Going into tournament week, Miyazato estimated she had contributed $130,000 to help victims. After Sunday’s $487,500 winner’s check, that amount will rise significantly.
“Maybe all of it or some of it will definitely be donated,” she said.
Miyazato’s final-round 70 and 15-under-par total, two better than runner-up Stacy Lewis, was good for her seventh career title. Standing just 5-foot-2, Miyazato is one of the tour’s shorter hitters, but she had no trouble with the 6,344-yard course. For the week, she hit 46 of 56 fairways and 61 of 72 greens in regulation. She had just three three-putts in four days.
Last year, Miyazato won five times and rose to No. 1 in the world. But until Evian, her best finish this year was fifth in match play, one of only two top-10s.
“There was so much happening at the beginning of the season, to be honest,” she said. “Last year was last year. So I just trying to take one tournament at a time. I did, working hard, and it’s paid off right now.
“I always have Japan in my thoughts. It gives me motivation to play.”
Ai Miyazato’s victory was the seventh of her career. A homebody at heart, Miyazato loves going back to Japan for all the comforts of her homeland. She loves Japanese food, but her secret indulgence is something purely American – donuts!
Miyazato sports trendy, compression knee socks on the golf course and handmade earrings designed and created by her mother. Miyazato credits her father and teacher Masaru Miyazato as her biggest influence on her career. Add her two brothers, who play professional golf in Japan, to the mix and the Miyazato’s have quite a foursome. When modeling her career after other players, the big three – Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb and Juli Inkster – are at the top of Miyazato’s list.
Other interesting facts of Ai:
? In 2011, Miyazato teamed with Momoko Ueda and Mika Miyazato to form Makeruna Nippon
(Don’t Give Up) to raise money for the victims of the Japanese tsunami and earthquakes.
? That dream became a reality when Miyazato became the first player from Japan to sit atop the
Rolex Rankings. She first ascended to Rolex Rankings No. 1 after winning the ShopRite LPGA Classic, spending a total of 11 weeks at the top in 2010. Pre-Tournament Interview:
? Silky smooth. Watching Miyazato swing is like listening to a lullaby. Known for her unmatched tempo from tee to green, Miyazato is a solid ball-striker who has learned to stick to her own style of play.
? Consistency, mental discipline and short-game precision are synonymous with Miyazato’s game. She ranked first in putts per green in regulation, tied for second in putting average and seventh in scoring average (70.65) in 2010.
? Miyazato led the Rolex Player of the Year race for much of the 2010 season, vying to become
the first player from Japan to earn the honor since Ayako Okamoto in 1987.