(George, South Africa – February 13 2005) Japan has won the inaugural Women’s World Cup of Golf. But the youngest pair in this inaugural $1million event did not make life easy for themselves and avoided a dramatic collapse as they stumbled through the back nine of The Links course at Fancourt Hotel and Country Club Estate.
|Ernie Els with the winning team|
Scotland, who had squandered their overnight share of the lead, were back in contention at level par and even England, who were ten over par for the front nine alone, rallied on the inward nine and needed a good finish to put the pressure on. It was not to be as Laura Davies and Karen Stupples failed to hole out when it mattered most.
With the pressure mounting, Miyazato, who won five times on the JLPGA Tour and racked up 16 top-tens to earn over $1million in her rookie season in 2004, squandered a three foot birdie putt at the 16th. And adding to the increasing drama, Kitada then missed a putt measured at no more than 18 inches to drop another shot – They were now tied with Korea and The Philippines who were in the clubhouse on one under par.
But while it was all going wrong for just about everyone on this 6402-yard brute of a course, it was the diminutive pair from the Land of the Rising Sun who sealed the title with a brace of birdies at the 17th.
Kitada ended her six-hole nightmare with a fabulous putt from 20 feet, denying her partner all the glory. And when Miyazato rolled in a five footer on top of it, they both breathed an awful lot easier heading up the last hole, which they parred.
“The putt at the 17th was the biggest putt of my career,” admitted Kitada, who could not hold off the tears of relief and joy at becoming a World Cup winner.
“It was very difficult for me out there today and I felt that I was dragging my partner back on the back nine. That putt saved me and my team.”
Miyazato, who at just 18-years-old and arguably the biggest sports star in Japan, admitted that her front nine was one of her best ever in her short, yet productive career.
“That’s probably the best front nine I have ever played under pressure,” said Miyazato, who carded the low round of the day, a six under 67.
“I didn’t feel any pressure as Rui was not playing her best and I was trying to help her out and concentrate on my own game. When she was down, I just brought myself up.
“This means so much to us and to our country and we are both very happy. We came here thinking we wanted to win it, and now we have, it is a great feeling.”
Along with the $100,000 each for the victory, Miyazato and Kitada received their trophy from World number three and South Africa’s most successful golfing son of recent years, Ernie Els. The 6’4” giant dwarfed the newest stars of women’s World golf, but he knows that their heart, courage and will to win are every bit as big as his.