Japan hails ‘Smiling Cinderella’ Shibuno for British Open win - GulfToday

Japan hails ‘Smiling Cinderella’ Shibuno for British Open win


Japan’s Hinako Shibuno celebrates with the trophy after her victory at the 2019 Women’s British Open golf championship on Sunday. Agence France-Presse

Japan on Monday hailed a fairytale finish for Hinako Shibuno, the 20-year-old golf sensation known as ‘Smiling Cinderella’ who was crowned the surprise winner at the British Open.

“She did it!” said TV presenter Tomoaki Ogura after Shibuno, in her debut tournament overseas, became Japan’s first Major-winner in 42 years.

“Who expected she could do this much in her first competition abroad, a Major championship?” he said in his morning show on a private TV network.

Shibuno’s win at her first Major dominated morning television shows in Japan on Monday, topping news items. The story broke too late for the front pages of Japan’s newspapers, but was splashed across their websites.

Despite the huge popularity of golf in Japan, only one Japanese player -- male or female -- had previously won a Major: Chako Higuchi at the 1977 Women’s PGA Championship.

Social media was abuzz with congratulations for the 20-year-old Shibuno, who only turned pro last year.

“A star is born!” tweeted one Japanese user. “A historic achievement,” another wrote.

Shibuno hit a gutsy 18-foot birdie putt at the final hole to seal victory at Woburn on Sunday, finishing with a 68 and 18-under-par as she beat American Lizette Salas by a single stroke.

South Korea’s world number one Ko Jin-young, who was seeking her third Major title of the year, had to settle for third place following a 66.

Shibuno herself seemed overwhelmed by the victory.

“I didn’t feel that nervous when I was on the last putt,” she told reporters.

But after the win “I was just covered in goosebumps and I feel so tense now I just don’t know what to say!” She said she planned to celebrate her historic victory by indulging her cravings.

“I want to buy as many snacks as I can eat,” Kyodo news quoted her as saying.

Elsewhere, JT Poston fired an eagle and six birdies in an eight-under par 62 on Sunday to seize his first US PGA Tour title at the Wyndham Championship as overnight leader An Byeong-hun faded to third.

Poston, a North Carolina native who delighted a big group of friends and family at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, North Carolina, made a big move with a five-under front nine that included his eagle at the par-five fifth.

Three more birdies coming in were enough to give him the victory on 22-under par 258.

Agence France-Presse

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