OMITAMA, Japan — Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Mone Inami of Japan shot a 3-under 69 to win the LPGA’s Japan Classic by one shot over Seon Woo Bae of South Korea and Shiho Kuwaki of Japan. It was the first win on the LPGA Tour for the 24-year-old.
Inami finished at 22-under 266 for the four rounds. Seon closed with a 67 and Kuwaki, who shared the lead after three rounds, slipped to a 71 at the Taiheiyo Club in north central Japan.
Inami put herself in contention for the title with a 7-under 65 in the third round at Taiheiyo Club Minori Course in Omitama, Ibaraki Prefecture.
The 24-year-old golfer had four birdies and one bogey. She shot 2-under 34 on the front nine.
After a birdie on the par-5 17th hole, Inami, the silver medalist at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, tapped in a putt to finish with an even-par total (four strokes) on the 18th.
It was Inami’s 13th career victory, with 12 coming in Japan, including eight in 2021 when she clinched the JLPGA Tour’s 2020-21 money title. This triumph provided a $300,000 payday.
Inami opened the tourney with an 8-under 64 in the first round, followed by a 68 in the second round.
“I’ve wanted to win at least once every year, but I had a strong feeling that I wouldn’t be able to get a win this year,” a teary-eyed Inami was quoted as saying by Kyodo News. “It was good to win here.”
“I haven’t felt comfortable with my swing all year long and changed my swing four times,” she said.
“But I got something of a good feeling with my swing this week, it worked well and I won this tournament.”
Ten of the world’s top 30 players were competing as the LPGA finished its four-event Asian swing.
Inami, who has 12 wins on Japan’s JLPGA Tour, recorded her first LPGA victory on her fifth start on the elite circuit.
She said she would “discuss with my team to make a final decision” whether to take up LPGA Tour membership.
Inami’s previous tourney title was in August 2022 at the Nitori Ladies Golf Tournament at Otaru Country Club in Otaru, Hokkaido Prefecture.
Defending champion Gemma Dryburgh of Scotland shot a 65 and finished in a tie for sixth, three strokes off the pace.
Japan’s Hinako Shibuno famously turned down an LPGA membership after her 2019 AIG Women’s British Open victory and had to later go to Q-School to earn her card.
South Korea’s Seonwoo Bae, who shot a 5-under final round, finished one stroke adrift at 21-under 267 for the four-round tournament.
The United States-based LPGA Tour and the JLPGA Tour jointly operated the four-day event. Bae shared the runner-up spot with Shiho Kuwaki, who had three bogeys in the final round and carded a 71.