Oct
18
2009
Know Your Asians: Ai Miyazato (Eye Me-Ya-Za-Toe)
By Stephanie Wei under General

There’s an influx of Asians on the LPGA. And they’re really good. In fact, they win a lot. But many fans find it difficult to keep track of who is who because, you know, all Asians look alike and their names sound the same. So, let’s get to know them better.

  • Born and raised in Okinawa, Japan, she’s 24 years old
  • As an amateur, she won her first professional tournament on the Japanese LPGA Tour in 2003
  • She dominated the JLPGA for two years with 15 victories, including 5 during her rookie year
  • Her outstanding victory at the Japan Open Championship when she was 20 made her the youngest JLPGA player to triumph in a major (!) with 32,000 people in the gallery (the largest ever)
  • She ran away from the field at LPGA Q-school in 2005, winning by a mind-blowing 12 strokes
  • After totally killing it on the JLPGA, everyone had ginormous expectations for Ai-chan, but the hype died down when she was winless on the LPGA for four years, which resulted in heavy scrutiny from the fickle Japanese fans
  • Her first victory on the LPGA was at the Evian Masters in July ‘09, where she beat Sophie Gustafson in a playoff and was ceremoniously groped by two Frenchmen
  • She’s one of the most recognizable athletes in Japan with omnipresent ads of her adorable, smiling face plastered across the country
  • Other players say you wouldn’t know she was born and raised in Japan if you met her because she speaks English, does interpreter-free interviews and looks like a half-breed
  • She travels Diddy-style with a small entourage

Asian-ness Scale (1-10, 1: Michelle Wie, totally Americanized (born in US, duh!); 5: Se Ri Pak, somewhat assimilated; 10: Eun-Hee Ji, 한국말): Ai, 5

[Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images Europe]