HOSTS Japan led from start to finish to earn a historic home victory at The Queens presented by Kowa, an new match play tournament between four of the world’s leading women’s golf tours: the Ladies European Tour (LET), Australian Ladies Professional Golf Association (ALPG), Korean Ladies Professional Golf Association (KLPGA) and LPGA of Japan (JLPGA).
After going into the final round at Miyoshi Country Club with an eight-point lead over Korea, the Japanese team ended with 41 points, just three ahead of the Koreans, who won eight of their nine singles matches. The LET team finished third with the ALPG in fourth.
“I’m relieved and delighted at the same time. We worked superbly as a team, and our team spirit was definitely the key in the decisive moments,” said elated Japanese captain Momoko Ueda.
“It turned out to be a tight contest in the end, but the players’ performances were superb throughout. It was a special experience and an honour to play alongside such wonderful players and I’m sure that this victory will mean a lot to everyone playing on the JLPGA Tour.”
The Japanese team won six and halved one of their nine singles matches, earning 19 points in bitterly cold conditions on Sunday and Misuzu Narita led the way in the top match with a 6&5 win over Catriona Matthew.
Korea earned 14 points in the singles, starting in the second match when Jin Young Ko beat Whitney Hillier on the last hole.
In the third match, Dame Laura Davies, the LET team captain, beat Australian Sarah Kemp 2&1 in a thrilling match. Davies was four up before Kemp eagled the long 15th to keep the match alive and the captain also lost the short 16th after her tee shot took a hard bounce left into a small valley.
“I actually played really well tee to green, but didn’t make many putts,” said Davies. “Kempy didn’t have her best day on the greens; she missed a lot of greens, but it was one of those matches where it was tough to finish her off.”
Karine Icher added a half point for the LET in the 15th match against Japan’s Erina Hara, earning the LET team four points from the singles. Icher was one up coming down 18 before Hara hit her approach shot stone dead.
“It was a good match and we both played well,” said Icher, whose birdie attempt from 20 metres hit the hole on the last green. “On the 18th I hoped for a miracle but we halved the match; it was tight all the way through.
“The Japanese and Koreans have some very good players, so they are hard to beat. We are the only team where we have to combine nationalities, so it’s hard to fight that team spirit. It’s a good experience, good tournament and crowd. I hope we continue for the next few years.”
Sarah-Jane Smith finally got a full point on the board for Australia with a 5&4 victory over Emily Kristine Pedersen before her captain Rachel Hetherington secured another win with a 2&1 victory over Marianne Skarpnord, giving the ALPG six points on the last day.
For Davies, it was a tough outcome but the inaugural match was a great collaboration between golf’s global tours.
She said: “Our team is very disappointed because we needed to be a little bit closer to have a chance today but the Japanese and Korean teams played so well.
"The whole team has enjoyed it and the LET as a tour is really happy to be playing in The Queens presented by Kowa. We’ve really enjoyed it and I hope it’s the first of many. Congratulations to Japan because they played very well.”