The final day of the “Ai Miyazato Suntory Ladies” was held at the Rokko International GC in Hyogo on November 11. Chirei Iwai (20=Hond), the leader from day 1, shot 5 birdies and 1 bogey for 4 under par, overcoming the chasing Shin Jie and others to win her second event of the season and her fourth on tour, following the “RKB x Mitsui Matsushima Ladies” on May 14. This is the first time in her career that she has won a tournament in which she has held the lead from the first day, and she has also qualified for the British Open in August.
Hinako Shibuno failed to qualify for her first Suntory event since winning the Women’s British Open in 1919 and signing a contract with Suntory in 2008. The “mainstay” of the event disappeared early, but Chirei Iwai’s performance made the absence of the mainstay feel less noticeable. Iwai, along with her twin sister Meiai, has been thoroughly taught the “Four Articles” of a human being by her father, Yushi, who has worked as a public servant. The following is a re-cap of the article published on June 8 (with some additions).
The “Four Articles” thoroughly imprinted by her father
The Iwai Twins, Akie and Chisato, are the hottest sisters in women’s golf in Japan right now. The result was a great success for Meiai and the Iwai Twins, as well as for last season’s team. The result was that Chirei won her third victory on the tour over Meiai and last season’s queen, Miyu Yamashita, proving once again how good they are. Ai Mei also won for the first time at the “KKT Cup Banteling Ladies Open” in April.
In other tournaments as well, the two have continued to fly with ultra-stable flight. Meia finished in second place at the RKB x Mitsui Matsushima Ladies in mid-May, which was overturned in a playoff, and at the Bridgestone Ladies Open the following week, two matches in a row. Even after her first win of the season, Chirei was the sole leader on the second day at the “Resort Trust Ladies” in Shizuoka, May 25-28, and eventually tied for 4th place. Last week at the “Richard Mille Yonex Ladies” (Shizuoka), which was shortened to 27 holes due to bad weather, she was not only in contention for the win, but also won the “Best Score Award” given to the 16th hole for the second consecutive year and received 5 million yen in prize money, making her a topic of conversation at every tournament.
Prior to this week’s Suntory Ladies, the older sister had finished in the top 10 six times this season, while the younger sister had finished in the top 10 five times (both in 14 tournaments), always with a win in sight. Their father, Yuji, 50, who accompanies the sisters to the event, has been supporting their life on tour. He is the one who took his two daughters to the driving range when they were in the first grade of elementary school and guided them to the path of golf. Immediately after the sisters’ playoff, he said, “I was thrilled. It was like watching an athletic meet in the old days,” she was reported to have said excitedly.
The Iwai family has “four teachings” that they value more than education to become professional golfers, and that they must follow as human beings. Yushi, who has worked as a public servant for many years, has taught his sisters since childhood: “Don’t do anything you don’t want others to do to you,” “If you see someone alone, join them,” “If someone is in trouble, help them,” and “Be kind to little children, girls, and weak people,” and has had them recite these lessons to her.
Yushi is proud to say, “I think I can still say those four words today,” referring more to the thoroughness of those four words than to the methods necessary to improve golf scores and techniques. I think I can still say them today,” he says proudly. The other thing is to “make sure they can do basic things like greet each other. This has been the basis of child-rearing in the Iwai family.
As their father says, the sisters have never forgotten these teachings. As Chirei says, “I still cherish these words,” and they seem to have been firmly engraved in their hearts. And this has also influenced their behavior as tour professionals. In particular, they both value the lesson of “being kind to young children, girls, and weak people.
I think you have to be good to small children,” said Meiai.
There are a lot of little girls at the venue, so when I see them, I want to be nice to them.
It can be said that they have developed an attitude that should be cherished by many people as professionals, rather than just their play itself.
Combining “Gentleness” and “Strength” at the same time
However, this “gentleness” may have a negative impact on the game. What is noteworthy is the two’s ability to switch from one to the other without bringing their gentleness to the decisive battlefield. A professional coach said, “The two are usually cheerful and friendly, but once they swing their clubs, you can sense that they have a great deal of spirit, as if they are pushing their concentration to the limit. Their ability to switch between the two is amazing.
In mid-May at the “RKB x Mitsui Matsushima Ladies” golf tournament, the two sisters played together in the final group on the second day, as they did in the playoff. However, there was hardly any conversation between the two sisters during the 18 holes, and Mami Fukuda, the other senior player who was playing with them, recalled with a laugh, “They didn’t talk much, so I wondered what I should do in between. The course was filled with a sense of urgency. However, this balance may be what makes it possible to have both gentleness and strength at the same time.”
In the match in Fukuoka, the two sisters set several milestones: the first-ever playoff between sisters, the first-ever championship in the same year between sisters, and the first-ever one-two finish between sisters. In 2021, their debut year, Meia won the Sanyo Shimbun Ladies Cup, the next round of the Castrol Ladies, which was Chirei’s first professional victory on the lower tours, and Meia won the Sanyo Shimbun Ladies Cup, the first time in history that two sisters won two consecutive tournaments.
After the sisters’ playoff, the elder sister said, “I am 80% disappointed, but 20% happy because Chirei won. Next time, I will win! she said honestly. On the other hand, Chirei, the winner, said, “It was a lot of fun. （I want to win (next time, too)! I want to win (again)! The sisters are always together, both on and off the course. The friendly rivalry between the sisters will continue in the future. In the world of sports, it may be cruel to see who wins and who loses. Still, they must feel a great sense of satisfaction in having made their dream come true: “We talked about wanting to play in the playoffs someday,” said Chirei.
Her sister, Meiai, who watched her sister Chirei’s second win of the season from the green, finished in 15th place. The two sisters have only just begun their professional careers, but they will be competing not only in Japan, but also overseas, The stage is set for them to compete not only in Japan but also overseas. Their father, Yuji, who is expected to follow his daughters around the country, must be “squealing with joy.