Forty years after Isao Aoki made Japanese golf history in Europe, Ryo Hisatsune achieved a career milestone of his own on Sunday, September 24.
Hisatsune finished strong in the final round of the French Open at Le Golf National in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, France, claiming his first overseas title. The key detail: Hisatsune had five birdies on the back nine, including on the 15th and 17th holes, to secure a two-stroke victory over England's Jordan Smith and Denmark's Jeff Winther.
The 21-year-old Okayama native carded a 5-under 66 in the fourth round, the identical score from his opening round, and finished at 14-under 270. Hisatsune had back-to-back 2-under 69s in the second and third rounds.
In September 1983, Aoki, a 2004 inductee into the World Golf Hall of Fame, became the first Japanese golfer to win a PGA European Tour event (also currently known as the DP World Tour), claiming the top prize at the Panasonic European Open in Berkshire, England. Hisatsune became the second Japanese man to win a pro golf tourney on European soil.
What was Hisatsune's reaction to his breakthrough victory?
"It feels unreal," he told reporters after the tournament. "For me, I didn't think I would win, but I just won! I'm feeling delighted, it's my first win, I'm so happy."
Hisatsune turned pro in December 2020. He was No 1 on the Japan Challenge Tour's money list for the 2020-21 season with earnings of around ¥11 million JPY (about $74,000 USD, according to the current exchange rate on September 26).
In November 2022, Hisatsune tied for second at the Australian PGA Championship at Royal Queensland Golf Club.
A Day to Remember for Ryo Hisatsune
Nearly a year later, his focus and execution on the golf course delivered the desired result on the final day in France.
"I had confidence today and also a lot of luck," Hisatsune was quoted as saying by BBC Sport.
He added, "I didn't think of the result on the back nine, just concentrated on my golf."
For Hisatsune, that concentration paid off. He shot a 30 for the last nine holes at the French Open (aka Open de France), which was first held in 1906.
On Sunday, Smith took a six-stroke lead after consecutive birdies on the first and second holes, then struggled the rest of the way. He carded a 1-over 72 in the fourth round.
Hisatsune, meanwhile, overcame bogeys on the fourth and eighth holes.
Pivotal to his resurgence was a 25-foot putt on the 10th hole for a birdie.
"[I decided to play] more aggressive, like 'Go, go, go,' " Hisatsune said, according to The Associated Press.
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Author: Ed Odeven