Saturday, April 19, 2014

KKT Cup Vantelin Ladies Saturday: 21-Year-Old Mami Fukuda Vaults into Lead

21-year-old Mami Fukuda rode a bogey-free 66 into the lead at the KKT Cup Vantelin Ladies today in Kumamoto, passing yesterday's co-leaders 2014 money-list leader Onnarin Sattaybanphot (3-birdie 71) and 15-year-old amateur Minami Katsu (5-birdie 71) while outdistancing Bo-Mee Lee (4-birdie 70) and 21-year-old Misuza Narita (who was sparked by a 4-hole birdie train on the back to fire a 69).  With Fukuda at -8 and her lead chase pack at -7, the leaderboard is already quite packed, but let's make sure not to count out Erina Hara (5-birdie 68) or Teresa Lu (bogey-free 70) at -6, Yukari Baba (3 birdies in her last 10 holes for a 70 of her own) at -5, last week's winner Esther Lee (3-birdie 70), Kaori Nakamura (3-birdie 71), or Ji-Hee Lee (2-birdie 72) at -4, much less Katsu's more heralded Japan National Team compatriot 17-year-old Haruka Morita, who finished birdie-par-par-eagle to pull within 5 shots of the lead.

If the leaders' scores don't seem that impressive, consider that Momoko Ueda shot a 77 to join Hyun-Ju Shin (75), Soo-Yun Kang (75), and Natsuka Hori (74) on the wrong side of the cut line, along with the likes of So-Hee Kim, Na-Ri Kim, Young Kim, Erika Kikuchi, Yuki Sakurai, Kaori Ohe, Na Zhang, and even heavier hitters like Yuri Fudoh and Shinobu Moromizato.  Sakura Yokomine, who opened with a 69, had to withdraw, as did Bo-Bae Song and Jessica Speechley.  So the fact that Fukuda has a 6-shot lead on such players as Mi-Jeong Jeon, Shiho Oyama, Chie Arimura, Mayu Hattori, Saiki Fujita, and even Yui Mukaiyama (who fired a 66 of her own today), a 7-shot lead on Na-Ri Lee and Ritsuko Ryu, and an 8-shot lead on Mamiko Higa and Maiko Wakabayashi is nothing to sneeze at.

It'll be interesting to see if Fukuda can follow up her low round of 2014 and improve on her best JLPGA finish of 3rd just a few weeks ago at the T-Point Ladies.  But there are plenty of other interesting what ifs to contemplate:

  • whether Sattayabanphot will extend her lead on the JLPGA money list by notching her 2nd win of the season;
  • whether Katsu or Morita will break through for her 1st JLPGA victory at an even younger age than Ai Miyazato did in 2003;
  • whether Bo-Mee Lee or Narita will find her way into the winner's circle again for the 3rd consecutive year in Japan;
  • whether Hara will follow through on her 2008 JLPGA victory or Megumi Kido her 2012 one or Lu on her 2013 one or Ayaka Watanabe on her AXA Ladies one earlier this year or Esther Lee on last week's;
  • whether Mi-Jeong Jeon will get JLPGA victory #23, Ji-Hee Lee her 18th, Oyama or Arimura her 14th, Hattori her 5th, Baba or Junko Omote her 4th, or Nakamura her 1st at age 27.
Perhaps not quite so compelling as a showdown between Angela Stanford, Michelle Wie, Hyo Joo Kim, and Cristie Kerr on the LPGA, but not half bad!

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