The first tournament of the 2014 LPGA of Japan (JLPGA) season left me with joy in most respects, but tinged with a bit of blue. I’m very pleased to see Thailand’s Onnarin Sattayabanphot ride the low round of the day (5-under 67, tied for low round of the tournament with Bo-Mee Lee) to an 8-under overall first place finish at the 2014 Daikin Orchid Ladies Golf Tournament. Moo (her nickname) finished round 2 with an eagle and didn’t look back in round 3, firing 6 birdies (including 5 during an 8 hole stretch from 4 through 11) against a lone bogey en route to victory. So it’s great for me to see another Thai winner. Also, it’s great to see my favorite JLPGA players like Sakura Yokomine and Rikako Morita back in action. Sakura was in contention until a final round 4-over sunk her chances. Defending champion Rikako had the overnight lead at 5-under. She was respectable at 1-under, but too many other players near the top went lower and caught her.
The slight melancholy I feel is seeing Jiyai Shin, one of my LPGA favorites, now on the JLPGA. She relinquished her membership for the American tour in January to turn her focus to Japan. If she can keep her world ranking high, we should see her in LPGA Majors, but as a member of the JLPGA she has to play at least 60% of their tournaments this year. More than likely, she will play more than that. So seeing her much in America is doubtful. I’ll miss the Final Round Queen. However, she stated she was mentally and physically fatigued playing in the States and travelling back and forth. It’s understandable that she needs to do what is in her best interests. She also recently graduated from Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea and has spoken of interests outside of golf. That said, she also stated that she loves golf, wants to play as long as she can and that focusing on playing in Japan was a means to that end. I wish her all the best.