Nara International Golf Club
(46 golfers vying for 6 spots)
Nara International Golf Club will be hosting U.S. Open sectional qualifying for the first time. Previously, the Japan sectional qualifier had been conducted at Ohtone Country Club's West Course.
Nara International is one of two international sectional qualifying sites; the other venue is Walton Heath Golf Club in Surrey, England.
The USGA implemented overseas sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open in 2005.
The field will mostly comprise touring pros from Japan, Korea, southeast Asia and Australia, but there are some North Americans in the field. Among the golfers expected to compete include 2006 U.S. Junior Amateur runner-up Richard Lee of Chandler, Ariz., and former University of Florida standout Arnond Vongvanij of Thailand.
Others in the field who have previously played in a U.S. Open include Hiroyuki Fujita (Japan), Yuta Ikeda (Japan), Dohoo Kim (Korea), Angelo Que (Philippines), David Smail (New Zealand), Toru Taniguchi (Japan) and Azuma Yano (Japan)
Kiyoshi Miyazato Joins Sister, Ai, in U.S. Opens
By David Shefter, USGA
A brother-sister tandem will be teeing it up in June at Pinehurst.
And no, it’s not the Thompsons, although PGA Tour pro Nicholas and Louisiana State University standout Curtis have the opportunity on June 2 to join their younger sister, Lexi, at the historic back-to-back U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open championships that will be contested in consecutive weeks on the famed Pinehurst Resort & Country Club’s Course No. 2.
On May 26, Kiyoshi Miyazato, the older brother of LPGA Tour star Ai Miyazato, qualified for his first U.S. Open at a sectional qualifier held at Nara International Golf Club, in Japan. The 37-year-old professional posted rounds of 66-68 on the par-71 layout for a 36-hole total of 8-under-par 134, earning one of the six available qualifying spots out of the field of 46.
Kiyoshi’s 28-year-old sister, Ai, owns 25 worldwide professional victories, nine of which have come on the LPGA Tour. She will compete in her 10th U.S. Women’s Open in June and has recorded 10 top-10 finishes in major championships, including a tie for sixth at the 2009 and 2011 U.S. Women’s Opens.
Kiyoshi’s only victory on the Japan Golf Tour was the 2004 Asia Japan Okinawa Open, which came in the 2005 JGT season.
The U.S. Open will be conducted June 12-15, with the U.S. Women’s Open to follow June 19-22. The Nara International G.C. sectional was the first of two international qualifiers held on May 26. Qualifying also took place in Surrey, England. The 10 United States sectional qualifiers are scheduled for June 2.
Wen-Chong Liang, 35, of China, edged Miyazato for medalist honors by one stroke, shooting 67-66. Liang, the only Chinese golfer to ever crack the top 100 in the Official World Golf Ranking, will be making his U.S. Open debut. In 2007, Liang became the second golfer from China to win on the European Tour when he claimed the Clariden Leu Singapore Masters. He won the China Amateur three consecutive years from 1996-98 before turning pro in 1999.
Liang owns 19 professional victories and became the first Chinese golfer to win the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit (2007). That year, he received a special exemption into the PGA Championship, becoming the first Chinese player to play in that major championship. In 2010, he tied for eighth in the PGA Championship, shooting a course-record 64 in the third round at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wis. In 2008, he became the first Chinese golfer to make a cut in a major at the British Open at Royal Birkdale Golf Club in England.
He will now become the second Chinese golfer to play in the U.S. Open behind Andy Zhang, who was a 14-year-old amateur in 2012 at The Olympic Club in San Francisco.
Kyoung-Hoon Lee, of Korea, and Toru Taniguchi, of Japan, tied Miyazato for second at the qualifier at 8-under 134. Taniguchi, who is from Nara and owns 19 victories on the Japan Golf Tour, will be making his ninth U.S. Open appearance. His only made cut came in 2010 at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links when he tied for 63rd. Lee will be making his first U.S. Open appearance.
A 4-for-2 playoff that lasted six holes and finished just before dark was needed to determine the final two qualifying spots. Former University of Southern California standout David Oh (67-69), who grew up in Cerritos, Calif., but now plays professionally in Asia, garnered one of the spots. Oh qualified for the 2005 and 2006 U.S. Opens, but missed the cut in each.
The other spot went to Azuma Yano, a professional from Japan who owns three JGT victories and tied for 29th at the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage State Park’s Black Course in Farmingdale, N.Y.
Hideti Tanihara and Kazuhiro Yamashita, both of Japan, are the first and second alternates, respectively.
One notable who failed to qualify in the Japan sectional was 2006 U.S. Junior Amateur runner-up Richard T. Lee, of Canada. Lee, whose final amateur appearance was the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club – he withdrew in the second round with an injury – shot 139 (69-70) to miss by three strokes.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer with the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.