Hinako Shibuno had only left Japan once in her life before travelling to the UK to compete in the 2019 AIG Women’s British Open, so it was something of a shock to see her claim the title at the first time of asking.
In her debut Major, Shibuno showed a calmness that belied her tender age of 20. She was one over par at the turn of her third round on Saturday and going the wrong way, but six birdies on the back nine – including consecutive gains to finish – left her in pole position at Woburn heading into the final round.
A birdie on the 72nd hole in the final round on Sunday proved enough for the Japanese starlet to win the title by one shot over Lizette Salas.
So who is Hinako Shibuno, the rising star from Japan? The international media were dying to find out in 2019, and by the end of the translated press conference she had them eating out of her hand.
Here’s what we learned:
- 2019 was her rookie year on the Japanese LPGA Tour
- Her nickname is ‘Smiling Cinderella’ because she could not stop smiling after winning her first tournament in Japan
- In May, she won the World Ladies Championship Salonpas Cup, a major on the JLPGA Tour, and added a second victory in July at the Shiseido Anessa Ladies Open
- Her golfing idol is Lexi Thompson
- Playing in the upcoming Toyko Olympics is a huge goal for her
- Woburn feels like a Japanese course to her, which may explain why she did so well
- Her expectations heading into the tournament were only to make the cut
- She enjoys softball
- The only time she has left Japan previously was to go to Thailand to practise last year
- She can turn her double-jointed arms nearly full around.