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‘Smiling Cinderella’ becomes second Japanese Major winner

Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Hinako Shibuno became only the the second Japanese player to win a Major title with her stunning victory in the AIG Women’s British Open yesterday.

Playing in her maiden LPGA event and for the first time outside Japan, the 20-year-old from Okayama drained an 18-footer on the last hole at Woburn Golf Club for an 18-under-par total to edge American Lizette Salas by one shot.

Nicknamed the ‘Smiling Cinderella’ for her ever-smiling and cheerful demeanour, Shibuno turned professional in July 2018 and played mainly on the Japan LPGA’s development circuit that year. She  won her maiden professional title in May at the World Ladies Championship Salonpas Cup, one of four Majors on the Japan LPGA Tour, and followed up with another win on the Japanese circuit at last month’s Shiseido Anessa Ladies Open.

With this win:

  • Shibuno earns US$675,000 from the US$4.5 million total purse.
  • Shibuno is eligible for LPGA Tour membership and can accept immediate membership (which would make 2019 her rookie season) or take up membership next year.
  • Shibuno is the second Japanese player (of either gender) to win a Major championship, joining Chako Higuchi who won the 1977 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
  • Shibuno becomes  the 26th non-LPGA member to win an LPGA Tour event and the first since Jin Young Ko at the 2017 LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship.
  • Shibuno is the second player this decade to win in her Major debut, joining Hyo Koo Kim (2014 Evian Championship).

Thai sensation Atthaya Thitikul meanwhile finished as the leading amateur in T29 place on four-under-par after rounds of 73, 68, 70 and 73. This is the second successive year that Thitikul has claimed low amateur honours.

The inaugural Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific champion was one of two amateurs to make the cut at the year’s final Major. Also playing all four rounds at Woburn was current Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific champion Yuka Yasuda of Japan, who posted rounds of 73, 70, 70 and 77 to finish T59 on two-over par 290.

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