Japan's Hataoka earns medalist honors at LPGA qualifying


Miami (AFP)

Japan's Nasa Hataoka earned medalist honors Sunday as 20 players from 12 countries earned their 2018 LPGA tour cards at the final round of qualifying school.

"I'm really happy to be at the top of the leaderboard and winning the tournament," she said after playing five rounds of Q-school in Daytona Beach, Florida, in 12-under par.

"It's really hard to be a professional golfer. LPGA is one of the best leagues, so I'm going to try to prepare as soon as possible," added 18-year-old Hataoka, who won the 2016 Japan Women's Open as an amateur.

Just behind Hataoka was Tiffany Chan at 11-under. Chan is the first player from Hong Kong to qualify for the LPGA Tour.

"I'm feeling really excited," said Chan, who played three months on the developmental Symetra tour this year.

"I'm pretty good friends with Nasa, we've played together before on Team Asia two years ago ... so I think I just tried to have fun today, but tried to win also," she added.

South African Paula Reto (nine-under) and Australian Rebecca Artis (eight-under) also secured their playing privileges for 2018, Artis on her fifth Q-school attempt.

The last card came down to a three-hole aggregate stroke-play playoff among Daniela Darquea of Ecuador, Mind Muangkhumsakul of Thailand and amateur Maria Torres.

Torres birdied the 10th, the second playoff hole, to become the first Puerto Rican to earn an LPGA card.

Twenty-nine players earned conditional status for the coming season.