Korean Wins Japanese Golf Tourney
KARUIZAWA, Japan (AP) _ Han Hee-won of South Korea birdied the final two holes, finishing off a sizzling 68-67 run Sunday to win her first career title by two strokes at the rain-shortened NEC Karuizawa 72 Golf.
The $520,000 event was shortened to 36 holes after cancellation of play Saturday due to heavy rains. The purse also was reduced to $390,000.
Han sank five birdies in a bogey-free round over the 6,565-yard, par-72 Karuizawa 72 Golf North Course. She started the round two strokes off the pace.
The round left Han at a 9-under-par 135 total, two shots ahead of overnight leader Keiko Arai, who shot a 71 to finish second at 7-under 137.
``I’m more than happy to win in my first full year as a pro,″ said Han, who qualified for the Japan LPGA Tour last Sept. 1. ``I was hitting the ball solid, but I tried to play safe not to have the chance slip away.″
The former South Korean amateur star, who also was the low amateur at the 1995 and the 1997 Japan Women’s Opens as a college student studying in Japan, has so far shared second place at three tournaments, third place at three others and fourth place at another two JLPGA events.
``The birdie at the 17th hole made me feel the cup would be mine, finally,″ she said. In all, Han had finished in the top 10 in 11 tournaments since last September. ``So far, I might have had some problems in mental approach.″
She saved par with a 5-footer at No. 15, birdied the 17th with a 9-foot putt and did the same by draining an 18-footer on the final hole.
The victory was worth $52,100.
Arai, in contention for her first victory in four years and second overall since joining the tour in 1992, had one birdie in her second straight bogey-free round. On Friday, she had six birdies for a 6-under 66.
Ikuyo Shiotani, top money winner in 1992 and 1995, shot a 68 and shared third at 6-under 138 with Yuri Fudo and Harumi Sakagami.
Akiko Fukushima, winner of the Philips Invitational in May at Austin, Texas, shot a 69 and finished six strokes behind Han at 3-under 141. It was her first tournament on the domestic circuit this season.