Former World No. 1 Queen Reveals “Where Japan’s Women’s Golf Is Now
How does former US Tour money queen and former World No. 1 Shin Jie (34) view women’s golf in Japan, where “newcomers” keep winning?
Shin Jie finished 2nd in the Japan Women’s Open, a major women’s golf tournament held from September 29 to October 2. She temporarily took the lead on the final day, but was finally upset by Minami Katsu (24) to win the tournament.
While many players were hitting over par due to the difficult course setting typical of a major, Shin Jie was enjoying how she should play each shot and how she should attack the course. She said, “I miss the difficult setting.” Her smile was impressive even amidst the tension-filled play.
In 2009, she became the US Women’s Tour Money Queen, and in 2010, she reigned as the world No. 1. Her record of 22 wins on the Korean Tour, 11 wins on the U.S. Tour, and 26 wins on the Japanese Tour alone speaks volumes about her strength, but even now, at the age of 34, she is still competing at the top level of the Japanese Tour, where young players are on the rise.
In an exclusive interview with the Korean business newspaper “Asia Economy” late last month, Shin Jie said, “I was surprised to see how much the skills of young Japanese players have improved.
I started playing on the Japan Tour in 2014, and at that time, there weren’t many players who stood out like there are today. It is really amazing to see the young players today. It is truly amazing to see the young players of today. There are nine players who have won their first tournament this season alone. In the past, there was a big gap between the top players and the bottom players, but recently the overall ability has improved and the player lineup has become thicker.
Haruka Kawasaki, a 19-year-old who just passed the professional test last year, and Ayamiyu OZEKI, both first-time winners, have become the talk of the town, and Mimu YAMASHITA, currently ranked No. 1 in the Mercedes ranking and the prize money ranking, is only 21 years old. She seemed to be happy with the current state of the Japanese Tour, where players with solid skills are appearing one after another.
He added, “It is well known that there are many parents in Korea who enthusiastically support their female players, and such parents are increasing in Japan as well. Through systematic and intensive practice and training, they are improving their abilities at a fast pace,” he also said.
It is a well-known story in Korea that parents give their children an elite golf education. I was surprised that they were so enthusiastic that they even quit their jobs to accompany their children to matches, but I guess such a situation is emerging in Japan as well.
Last year, I had the opportunity to interview Shin Jie. I was impressed by her answers from various angles about the growth of Japanese players and how to win on the U.S. Tour.
He said, “The number of players with individuality has increased on the Japan Tour. It means that there are more players who each know exactly what their strengths are. I feel that more players know their strengths and are able to develop them, which naturally raises the level of the tour.
In addition to the improvement of each player’s ability, the number of Japanese players aiming for the U.S. Tour has been increasing, he said, “There are more players who are hungry for golf. He said that this is similar to the situation in the past where many Korean players would immediately advance to the U.S. Tour as soon as they achieved good results domestically.
He added, “If you look at the top ranking players in the world, Nasa Hataoka (23, ranked 9th in the world) is the only one who is working hard on the U.S. tour now. If more players start competing on the world stage in the future, she will certainly become stronger.
Ayaka Furue (22) and Hinako Shibuno (23) are now also struggling on the U.S. Tour, and Shin Jie believes that “if this trend continues, more and more players will emerge who can win on the U.S. Tour.
What is necessary to win in the world? He has shown this to young Japanese players behind their backs. The improvement of the level of the Japanese tour is largely due to changes in the environment and individual efforts, but her play, behavior, and words and deeds must have raised the level of Japanese players as well.
Interview and text： Myung-Woo Kim Photo： Kyodo News