Mamiko Higa hits a life-saving birdie on the 17th hole to win the Daikin Orchid Ladies Golf Tournament

Mamiko Higa hits a life-saving birdie on the 17th hole to win the Daikin Orchid Ladies Golf Tournament

Mamiko Higa raising both hands towards the cheers of the gallery after sinking the winning putt on the 18th green. March 10, the Daikin Orchid Ladies Golf Tournament at Ryukyu Golf Club in Nanjo (photograph by John Matsumoto)

March 11, 2019 Ryukyu Shimpo


By Kyoko Ishii


After opening up a large early lead at ten under, Mamiko Higa flirted with disaster over the next five holes dropping six strokes with two double-bogeys and three bogeys with only a single birdie mixed in.

With only two holes remaining, four competitors had climbed into a tie for second a mere two strokes back. Winning the Daikin Orchid Ladies Golf Tournament, a dream since Higa was a child, would not be simple.

“My body was so tense,” it is almost hard to imagine. After the back-to-back bogeys, a murmur of “unbelievable” could be heard from the crowd as Higa faced down the 17th hole (par 4).

The heavy rain from earlier had subsided, but there was a cross wind coming from the right.

It was there that she hit a life-saving birdie, holding onto her lead in front of the spectators.


On the 17th hole, Higa’s tee shot traveled through a strong wind to land 98 yards from the pin, which she followed up with a second shot landing only 2 yards from the pin.

The wind died down just as she walked onto the green to sink the birdie putt, by any measure, “It was perfect.” With that, the right-handed Higa put second place back to three strokes behind.

The hole symbolized the immense concentration it took to regain the first day’s lead after taking some hits on the second day.


Higa finished the 18th hole with a par, and biting her lip, gave a small fist pump.

“I was finally over,” she said breathing a sigh of relief, “It felt like I was drifting between a dream and reality,” she said in almost a trance in her post-victory comments.


Winning the tournament has been a dream for 14 years, since volunteering at the tournament when she was in the fifth grade. This win at the Daikin Cup marks Higa’s fifth professional win.


Last season, she was ranked 4th in terms of prize money, a career high.


When asked about potentially becoming the female prize money title winner Higa responded, “I have thought about it yet, but if I played like I did today I probably wouldn’t get the title right?”


By increasing her global rank at the tour championship, the prospect of appearing in the Tokyo Olympics comes into view, for which Higa shows ambition, “If there is a chance, I want to do everything in my power to grab it.” For now, “Only one of the 39 competitions [this season] have finished. We will have to see how the golfing goes through the next 38.”


Higa is already setting her eyes on the next competition.


Higa’s mother watches over her and holds her close

Mamiko Higa (right) embracing her mother Akiko after winning

On a final day that was anything but easy for Mamiko Higa, her mother Akiko, 61, watched closely from the first hole all the way through the end.

On the final green, she stood in clear view of her daughter’s winning putt, to which she smiled proudly, applauding. After shaking hands with the acquaintances around her, she raced to her daughter after she picked the ball out from the hole, giving her a great big hug.

“Congratulations!” She had finally gotten her wish by winning her first Daikin Orchid Ladies Golf Tournament.

Mamiko hugged her mother back as if to say, “Mom, I won!” The first person to share in the joy of victory was a mother who, “supports me, both during the season and in the off-season.”


After 16 holes, second place had closed the gap to only 2 strokes. Akiko said, “The match had changed drastically from before.

I thought she must be nervous.” She watched on anxiously as the championship played out in front of her.


Then, Higa made a long-awaited birdie on 17. The moment the golfer gave a fist pump was the same time the mother knew her daughter would win.

This is the first time in 15 years that the tournament was won by an Okinawan, the previous being Ai Miyazato.

Akiko said happily, “It was really great. I let out a big sigh of relief. I am happy that we could celebrate as a family.”


(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)


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