Ai Miyazato is presented with the salver by Takashi Muramatsu, Chief Executive Officer of Henderson Gartmore Global Investors, Japan.

Ai Miyazato has become the first Japanese player to win the Ladies European Tour’s Henderson Money List title.

The 26-year-old golfer from Okinawa was the top earner on Tour in 2011 with earnings of €363,079.68 from just two tournaments played.

She earned all of her prize money with her bumper first prize cheque at the Evian Masters presented by Societe Generale in France, which she won for the second time in July, later donating a substantial part of her winnings, 20,000,000 Japanese Yen, (around 197,000 euros), to tsunami relief efforts in Japan.  

“To be honest I have mixed feelings because I’m receiving the award from just winning one event on the LET.   However, it has been great being a member on the tour since 2009 and I can see the quality of the European players from this year’s Solheim Cup.  But I’ve never won the money title on any tour so I’m really happy,” Miyazato said.

“I don’t just play for results or awards but professionals are in a way judged by accomplishments and I will be proud of this award when I look back at my career.”

In March, the Japanese trio of Ai Miyazato, Momoko Ueda and Mika Miyazato set up a fundraising website with the slogan “Makeruna Nippon – Never Give Up Japan” to help Japan in its recovery from the tragic earthquake and tsunami.

Miyazato continued: “It took some time for me to be clear in my head about how I can proceed with the season after the earthquake, but realising that I can’t help my country alone took some weight off my shoulders. The fundraising that myself and two Japanese players on the LPGA tour, (Momoko Ueda and Mika Miyazato, organised), has received tremendous support from many people and I really appreciate their kindness.  In Japan alone, we’ve raised over $100,000.”

Alexandra Armas, Executive Director of the Ladies European Tour, praised Miyazato’s on and off-course achievements. “We would like to congratulate Ai on winning the 2011 Henderson Money List, but also on the way in which she has conducted herself this year, through a devastating period when she challenged herself to bring as many smiles as possible back to the faces of the disaster victims in Japan.  She is a tremendous ambassador for women’s golf and an inspiration to all.”

Richard Wilson, Marketing Director at Henderson Global Investors, said: “Henderson has proudly sponsored the Official LET Money List since 2006 and we are pleased to present the 2011 Henderson Money List trophy to Ai Miyazato. With recent winners including Lee-Anne Pace, Gwladys Nocera, Sophie Gustafson and Laura Davies, we are excited to add Ai to the list of high calibre recipients of the title. We were glad to present the trophy to Ai in her home country, Japan, where our Tokyo office was able to celebrate the honour with her.”

Miyazato joined the Ladies European Tour in 2009 after her victory at that year’s Evian Masters, which is a co-sanctioned event. She first appeared on the Henderson Money List in 2010, when she ended the season ranked 29th with earnings of €77,852 from two tournaments played on the LET, although she held the Rolex Rankings No.1 spot for 11 weeks during the same year.

As an amateur, she won a professional tournament on the LPGA of Japan while still in senior high school and turned professional in October 2003. She has since made regular appearances on the Ladies European Tour, beginning with a victory at the 2005 Women’s World Cup of Golf in South Africa and has now accumulated 23 tournament victories worldwide.