Shugo Imahira and tryst with a piece of history in Japan

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With the win at the Fujisankei Classic, Shugo Imahira is bidding to become the Japan Golf Tour's order of merit champion for the third consecutive year. Photo: Goldwin-sports.com
With the win at the Fujisankei Classic, Shugo Imahira is bidding to become the Japan Golf Tour's order of merit champion for the third consecutive year. Photo: Goldwin-sports.com

Shugo Imahira, two-time consecutive Japan Golf Tour Order of Merit champion, got back on track as he got his first victory of the season at the Fujisankei Classic on Sunday.

Shugo started out three shots behind the leader Ryo Ishikawa, but ended the final round with a four-shot lead over the field and jumped to sixth on the Money Ranking. If he succeeds in becoming the Order of Merit Champion again, he will become the fourth player to do so after Isao Aoki, Junbo Ozaki and Shingo Katayama.

The turning point for Shugo came on the par-4 5th hole as his second shot went over the green. “I thought there was a chance for making bogey or even double. That is the last place you’d want to hit, but I missed,” he said.

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But his third shot bounced and rolled for a chip-in birdie. From that miraculous shot, Shugo believed it could be his day. He made the turn at 2-under, then added 2 more shots on the 11th and 12th, and surged ahead.

Known as a cool customer, Shugo was fired up as he played alongside Kenshiro Ikegami, a close friend since the junior days. “I used to teach him the spots you must avoid on the course when we went for practice,” said Shugo.

As they chatted, Shugo got to know that Kenshiro was heading this week for the qualifer of next month’s Japan Open and encouraged him.

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“But this tournament was a different story and I just didn’t want to lose to my buddy,” said Shugo, and showed fight in the stomach with five birdies on the back nine.

During lockdown, Shugo concentrated on physical training so that he could gain distance. Though he gained distance, control took a hit. “It wasn’t helping my score. So, I started to train less and my feeling got back and results followed.”

Shugo has been in top-10 at this event for the past five years, but a win eluded him. “I am glad I finally won. We have more tournaments coming and I will fight hard and win at least two more and become the Order of Merit Champion for three years in a row,” he said.

JGTO

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