Sunday, September 15, 2019

A New Human Species

My iPhone evening news bulletin alerted me. A 20-year old rookie Hinako Shibuno from Okayama, Japan won the LPGA British Open by a razor thin margin of one stroke. I was following her progress and knew she was leading the tournament on the third day.

I had to burn the midnight oil to see how she won on the final day. I saw Hinako lose the leading heat in the first 9 holes, but she still hovered in the spoiler position. In the home stretch of her last three holes, 16th through 18th, I watched 3 women Lizette Sails, Jin Young Ko and Hinako competing in a three-way tie, with no one ceding the lead. It was a nail-biting series! Lizette almost broke the tie and won except that she missed the birdy shot on the short 17th. Tension made Ko shy off on the 17th. Hinako knew she could beat Lizette if she made the 5 meter long putt on the 18th green. Even a great pro golfer might need 2 putts to finish unless a miracle happens. Then she proceeded to break the tie with Lizette who was already on the putting practice green in anticipation of the tie-breaker. A flash hit Hinako’s mind “enjoy & rejoice!” Her positive determination made the winning ball roll, crawl, lick the edge of the cup wall, and fall in with a thump as if it hammered in. Hinako made it look so matter-of-fact easy. The victory photo showed her left hand raising her Ping putter straight and high with a princess smile, ready to take her trip to Disneyland. Did Hinako's pose reflect what she pictured in her flashing mind just before her putt? You bet it did!

“A stunning victory,” said Ayako Okamoto, a veteran Hall of Fame golfer who won 17 US-based LPGA, including two Inamori Classics in which I was involved. However, Ayako missed the major tourneys such as US Open and British Open. It was Hisako or Chaco Higuchi who won the US Open in 1977, making her the first Asian champ. Okamoto heralded the arrival of new champ, Hinako Shibuno, as a “New Human Species!”