Press Release courtesy of Faldo Series
Lăng Cô Town, Hue, Vietnam (March 1): New Zealand teenager Hiroki Miya produced a remarkable act of escapology as he swept to the top of the leaderboard on a dramatic opening day in the 12th Faldo Series Asia Grand Final.
The 17-year-old from Christchurch snared eight birdies in a scintillating seven-under-par 64 over the acclaimed Faldo Design layout at Laguna Lăng Cô, located between Danang and Hue in Central Vietnam.
That gave Miya a three-stroke lead from England’s Joshua Hill, the reigning Faldo Series Europe Under-16 champion, Pakistan’s Ahmed Baig and Suzuka Yamaguchi, who gained international headlines in January when she became the first Japanese winner of the Australian Women’s Amateur Championship.
On a warm, sultry day, 13 players in the 80-strong field bettered par, including Thailand’s defending champion Napat Paramacharoenroj (69) and Japan’s Arina Hiraki, whose one-under-par 70 was highlighted by a hole-in-one at the short fifth, where she struck a sweet pitching wedge.
Nonetheless, Miya was the centre of attention, going out in a flawless four-under 31 and coming home in three-under 33, the only blemish on his scorecard being a three-putt bogey at 14.
In addition to holing a succession of short putts, Miya chipped in from 35 feet for an unlikely two at the short eighth hole after hitting his tee-shot long and left.
By his own admission, however, it was a courageous rescue shot at the par-four 10th that led to a par that he will long remember.
With one of his few false strokes, Miya had pulled his approach shot at the 409-yard dog-leg left into the ditch short of the green. Although his ball came to rest on a patch of dry mud, in order to execute the 50-yard shot Miya had to take off his shoes and socks and wade into foot-deep mud.
“I considered taking a penalty drop, but eventually decided to give it a go,” said Miya, who made clean contact and watched with delight as his ball stopped two feet from the flag. He duly tapped-in for a par that felt like a birdie.
Miya’s 64 was no fewer than 14 strokes better than his last competitive outing at Laguna Lăng Cô exactly a year ago. After a promising start to the 11th Faldo Series Asia Grand Final which saw him post scores of 73 and 69, he ballooned to a closing 78 that saw him drop into a share of 19th place overall and equal seventh in the Boys’ Under-16 category.
But after matching the low round of his career today, Miya is now setting his sights on becoming the first New Zealander to land the Faldo Series Asia Grand Final title.
“I’ve been playing pretty well recently and I’ve definitely got a good chance now to go on and win,” said Miya, who shot 13-under for three rounds en route to winning the North Island Under-19 Championship in January.
“I’m just going to stick to my gameplan and be aggressive. This is not such a long course so it suits me well. I expected to shoot under par today, although I wasn’t expecting seven-under!”
In-form Yamaguchi was also in upbeat mood after picking up shots at three of the final four holes to turn what looked likely to be an average round into a good one.
Bidding to become the first female winner of the overall Faldo Series Asia Grand Final title, Yamaguchi was on the back foot after an opening-hole bogey. “I struggled a little on the greens but had a strong finish,” said the Japanese golfing prodigy who qualified for the US Open as a 14-year-old three years ago.
Like Miya, Yamaguchi has enjoyed a fast start to 2018. As well as her Australian Women’s Amateur Championship success, she won the Avondale Amateur in Australia in the last week of January and was one of only two amateurs to make the half-way cut in the LPGA Tour’s ISPS Handa Australian Women’s Open.
However, she described her joint 11th place finish at last week’s inaugural Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific Championship in Singapore as ‘disappointing’ and is keen to make amends in Vietnam. “I’m here to try and win. That’s what I want,” she said.
Six-time Major champion Sir Nick Faldo teed-off the tournament week by hosting more than 20 students from the nearby Nuoc Ngot 2 primary school at Loc Vinh Comune, who attend coaching clinics at Laguna Lăng Cô twice monthly, part of the club’s drive to grow golf.
“It was great to see the enthusiasm of the kids and it’s wonderful that Laguna Lăng Cô are doing so much to promote the game among the young local population,” said Sir Nick.
The 2017-18 Faldo Series Asia season is supported by The R&A and endorsed by the Asian Tour and the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation. The International Junior Golf Academy is a partner of the Faldo Series.
As well as two events in China and Thailand, championships were staged in Australia, Bangladesh, Chinese-Taipei, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.
Recognised as the only global amateur series for boys and girls, the Faldo Series was established in 1996, expanding to Asia in 2006.
Today, 40 Faldo Series tournaments take place in 30-plus countries worldwide, touching more than 7,000 golfers each year. Past champions include Tseng Ya-ni and Rory McIlroy, both multiple Major winners.
Faldo Series Asia Grand Final, Leading First Round Scores
Boys’ Under-21: 67 – Ahmed Baig (Pakistan). 69 – Kevin Caesario Akbar (Indonesia). 70 – Hayato Yoshida (Japan). Boys’ Under-18: 64 – Hiroki Miya (New Zealand). 70 – Jairus Gaines (United States). 72 – Rahul Ajay (India); Thongpipat Rattanayanon (Thailand). Boys’ Under-16: 67 – Joshua Hill (England). 68 – Chen Ting-yu (Chinese Taipei). 69 – Ryuta Suzuki (Japan); Napat Paramacharoenroj (Thailand); Kazuma Kobori (New Zealand).Girls’ Under-21: 67 – Suzuka Yamaguchi (Japan). 70 – Annie Kim (Korea). 71 – Tseng Tsai-ching (Chinese Taipei). Girls’ Under-16: 70 – Arina Hiraki (Japan). 71 – Pranavi Urs (India); Chiao Chang-hsin (Chinese Taipei).