April 22, 2019: The tricky green complexes will be the greatest challenge awaiting the finest players of the region when The Royal Golf Club hosts the second edition of the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific Championship (WAAP) later this week.
The prevailing wind at the golf course will make the par-72 course play longer than its intended 6,431 yards, but Norihisa Koda, consultant to Tokyo Leisure Development Inc., the group which owns the club, feels length will not be a worry for the elite amateur ladies of the region.
“These girls are all very good players and I don’t think they will mind the length,” said the 58-year-old Koda, who had an important role to play in the renovation of The Royal Golf Club in 2016 which helped establish it as a premier golf facility in Japan.
“There is always a 10-15mph breeze blowing, and if the wind speed picks up more than that, it would probably make some difference.
“But the real key on this golf course is how you are hitting your approach shots and how you position yourself on the greens. You’ve got to hit it in the right places to be able to score.”
Koda, who has received a sponsor’s exemption to this year’s Gateway to The Open Mizuno Open, and event on the Japan Golf Tour that will be played at The Royal Golf Club next month, said mastering the tricky greens will be the most important factor in posting a good score.
“There are a lot of slopes. We call them ‘potato chip’ greens in Japan. It will be important to hit it below the pin. Anything above will be tricky to hole. You also have to keep in mind that unlike the American courses, most of the greens here slope away from you,” said Koda.
“If you take the 16th hole as an example, if the pin is at the back and the player hits it short, she will have to make an impossible putt that first goes up the hill, and then all the way down. The green speed will not be like the men’s event, but it will still be around 11 on the stimp.
“Also, most of the bunkers are placed far from the green. They are not adjacent to the greens like you see on the Tour events in the US or Europe. If you are in them, you will be hitting bunker shots from at least 15-20 yards, which is difficult.”
Koda believes that the winning score will be anything between eight and 12-under par.
“This is not a very easy course, and as I said, the wind can play a big part. The players will have to take advantage of the par-5s and make birdies there. Also, the back nine plays tougher than the front, so they need to make a good start,” he added.
“I think anybody averaging two- to three-under par each round will stand a good chance of being around the top of the leaderboard on Sunday.”
The par-5 16th hole will be the longest for the players at 536 yards. The other par-5 which will play in excess of 500 yards is the eighth, measuring 515 yards.
The first round of the championship, which has an ‘Elite’ status in the women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), begins Thursday, April 25, and the final round is scheduled for Sunday, April 28.
Defending champion Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand, local favourite Yuka Yasuda and double Asian Games gold medalist Yuka Saso of the Philippines will lead a quality field of 80 players which includes 17 ranked inside the top-100 of the WAGR. The champion will earn a spot in two of the five women’s majors – the AIG Women’s British Open and the Evian Championship. She will also receive an invite to the 2020 Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
The Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific championship has been developed by The R&A and Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC) to unearth emerging talent and provide a pathway for Asia’s elite women amateurs to emerge on the international stage.
The R&A launched the Women in Golf Charter last year and is committed to increasing the participation of women in the sport. The WAAP is one of several key championships conducted by the governing body and a significant initiative along with the APGC to drive the popularity of women’s golf in the region.
Kabaya Ohayo Group and Rolex are the championship’s Official Scoring Partners; Evian are Official Water Supplier; Galaxy is a sponsor. IMG assists with championship staging and TV broadcasting.