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Wednesday, Apr 23, 2014

Sports

15-year-old Katsu rewrites golf history

The Japan News/ANN | Wednesday, Apr 23, 2014

Minami Katsu hits out of a bunker at the KKT Cup Vantelin Ladies Open on Sunday.

KIKUYO, Kumamoto - She noshed on rice balls and chatted casually with her caddie during breaks in the action. When she needed some motivation, she would sing "Rokko Oroshi," the fight song for the Hanshin Tigers, to herself.

These were hardly the type of actions that would indicate a player was on her way to rewriting golf history. But that is just what 15-year-old Minami Katsu did over the weekend.

Katsu, who had just started her first year at Kagoshima High School earlier this month, became the youngest-ever winner on the Japan LPGA tour when she calmly captured the KKT Cup Vantelin Ladies Open on Sunday.

That put her in the lofty company of such luminaries as Ai Miyazato and Ryo Ishikawa, both of whom won pro titles as teenagers, and raises interest in what the future holds for her. What made the Kagoshima native's triumph as an amateur even more impressive was just how convincing the victory was.

Going into the final round, she was among a quartet one shot behind overnight leader Mami Fukuda. But showing the nerves of a veteran, she proceeded to sink five birdies against a lone bogey to move into the lead and finish with the day's low score of 4-under 68.

She finished with a tournament-record 11-under 205 to win by one stroke, although runner-up Lee Bo Mee of South Korea, the current money leader, birdied the final two holes to make it look closer than it was.

Katsu had to cope with rain during the front nine, but tenaciously played her way of out difficult situations. She landed in the green-side bunker on both the fourth and fifth holes, but put her approach shots near the pin to save par.

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