In a year where Japan’s professional golf scene is earning international attention, the new Rakuten Super Ladies JLPGA tournament made its debut late last month. The three-day, 54-hole competition, which ran July 29-31 at the Tokyu Grand Oak Golf Club in Kato City, Hyogo Prefecture, featured a commanding performance by tourney winner Yuri Yoshida, who claimed the ¥14,400,000 winner’s purse. The Ladies Professional Golfers’ Association of Japan (JLPGA) tournament is Rakuten’s first sponsored golf event since 2005.
Big claps disrupt day one
Rakuten Super Ladies started with a bang. Or, more accurately, a series of bangs, as literal thunderclouds forced a temporary suspension midway through the first day of action. Yoshida was unaffected by the rain delay, however, recording the best score of the day, with Nana Suganuma and Miyu Shinkai not far behind.
A new leader takes over heading into the final round
Day two saw Yoshida relinquish her grip on the lead to Sayaka Takahashi, who briefly surged toward the top of the leaderboard. But Yoshida rallied back, setting up a duel with Takahashi heading into the final day of the tournament.
Yoshida overcomes the odds to win
Few would have predicted Yoshida as a favorite to win the tournament. Since joining the JLPGA tour last year, her best result to date entering Rakuten Super Ladies had been a third-place finish. Meanwhile, her opponent in the final pairing, Takahashi, is an established veteran who finished in the top five in two of her past three tournaments and seemed poised for a big win. But Yoshida, who hails from the Tokyo suburb of Ichikawa City, was not intimidated by Takahashi, or the moment, winning by a three-shot margin and capturing her first career JLPGA tour championship.
The Rakuten Super Ladies winner’s trophy was presented to Yoshida by Rakuten Group Chairman and CEO Mickey Mikitani alongside global soccer legend Andrés Iniesta, who plays for the Rakuten Group’s J.League soccer club, Vissel Kobe, adding even more star power to the inaugural event.
Looking forward to Mone Inami in 2022
All eyes were on one of the golf world’s rising stars heading into the tournament: Mone Inami, who became Rakuten’s first-ever sponsored pro golfer earlier this year and who has lit women’s golf on fire with six JLPGA tournament wins since October 2020.
Unfortunately for the Tokyo native and recent Silver medalist, who hoped to celebrate her 22nd birthday with another victory, Inami had to settle for ninth place, even after three solid rounds of play. With Inami’s incredible momentum and continuing ascent in the sport, however, she is on track to be an athlete to watch when the Rakuten Super Ladies tournament comes around again next year.