13 Jan 2023 | Amateur golf |

Japanese star, Kiwi take #AusAm

by Australian Golf Media

Kazuma Kobori and Mizuki Hashimoto.

New Zealander Kazuma Kobori and Japan’s Mizuki Hashimoto have stamped themselves as future superstars of golf by winning the Australian Amateur championships for men and women at New South Wales Golf Club last Friday.

Kobori, 21, who was born in Japan but emigrated with his family to the Christchurch area when he was five, pulled off a superb, closing 6-under 66 to win the men’s by two shots, putting the exclamation mark on his victory with a beautiful wedge into the par-5 18th and a holed birdie putt from close range.        He was swamped by his New Zealand teammates and doused with water immediately after what amounts to his biggest amateur victory. “I was hoping it would happen,” he said. “But I didn’t want to get drenched! It’s alright. I appreciate them sticking there watching me on the back nine. I appreciate their support.” The 20-year-old Hashimoto’s victory was a little tighter, with threats coming from her Japanese teammate Saki Baba and from Australian Justice Bosio. Playing in the same group and just a shot back going up the last, Bosio had a four-metre birdie putt at the closing hole that could have forced a playoff with Hashimoto. But she left the putt a few rolls short of the hole, and that left Hashimoto with two putts from just three metres for the win, a feat she accomplished with ease. It ended with a tap-in for the Japanese star, and for the second year in a row, the 18-year-old Bosio from Caboolture Golf Club in Queensland had to be content with second place in her national championship, tied with the world No. 3-ranked Baba Saki from Japan.  Kobori posted 15-under par overall and had six birdies and an eagle on the day, two shots ahead of England’s Arron Edwards Hill (13-under) and Japan’s Taishi Moto. He jumped to a 3-shot lead when he birdied the par-4 16th hole, but he missed the green at the difficult par-4 17th hole and made bogey, and that left the door open for Moto at the end. “At that point my only danger was actually Taishi (Moto) chipping in (at 18), which he actually gave a very good nudge,” said Kobori. “It made my heart skip a few beats, but after that, it was all good.” Hashimoto, a previous winner of the individual honours at the Queen Sirikit Cup in 2021, and also the Women’s Amateur Asia Pacific Championship, is no stranger to victory. She carries her bag on her back, but she scarcely misses a shot, a strong part of the brilliant Japanese women’s national program. Beginning with a three-shot lead, she was mostly steady in shooting a 1-under 73, wobbling only at the 16th hole where she lost her tee shot in the mulga and left the door open for Bosio, who was on a hot streak at the time. The Queenslander had made three birdies in four holes and was within one at this point. But Bosio could not quite close the deal. Wedging in to mid-range at the 18th, she told herself to be positive.  “I was actually trying to tell myself to actually get it to the hole, and I didn’t do that!” she said. “Clearly that didn’t help but maybe next time when I’m  in the same situation I’ll get it to the hole.” The teenager was philosophical about her consecutive second-place finishes. “It’s a little bit upsetting coming one short two years in a row, but also on the other hand really pleasing to know that I can play really good in these top tournaments in Australia.” Three other Australians – Belinda Ji (NSW), Claire Shin (NSW) and Hannah Reeves (Queensland) finished in the top 10, with Ji equalling the course record of 68. In the men’s, the leading Australians were Harrison Crowe who rattled home with 66 on the final day, and fellow-New South Welshman Jye Pickin in tied-fifth at 9-under par.

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