World Number 13 Ai Miyazato will headline the 2013 Honma Pilsen Golf Masters at Golf Park Plzeň – Dýšina in the Czech Republic, from 9-11 August.
The 28-year-old from Okinawa, Japan was the top-ranked golfer in the Women's World Golf Rankings on three occasions in 2010 and has 25 career wins to her credit, including the 2009 and 2011 Evian Masters, a co-sanctioned event between the LPGA and Ladies European Tour.
Although her 2013 season hasn’t been her best, she has a five-event top-20 streak going and will be looking to reach peak form this summer. Miyazato won the LET’s end of season Money List in 2011. Here Ai discusses her visit the Czech Republic.
Why have you decided to come and play in the Pilsen Golf Masters in the Czech Republic?
I’ve always wanted to play in a LET tournament since I have been a member after winning Evian but just couldn’t fit it into my schedule as I play mainly on the US LPGA and also some on the JLPGA. Luckily there is a 2 week break after the British Open this year on the LPGA and hearing about how beautiful the Czech Republic is, I decided to play the tournament.
Is this your first visit to the country and what in particular are you looking forward to?
Yes, it is my first visit. I’ve heard so many people say how beautiful Prague is so I’m looking forward to seeing the town.
What preparations do you make when you come to a new, unknown golf course, like Pilsen-Dysina?
I don’t try to make a different approach because I haven’t seen the course or know anything about it. I’ll prepare like I usually do with any other tournament, a couple of practice rounds and a pro-am and go play!
Do you plan to taste some beer from the famous Pilsen brewery, too?
Unfortunately I’m not a huge beer drinker but I’m sure my caddie will enjoy them!
Pilsen soccer team won Czech league championship title this year. We saw you playing football in Evian. Are you a keen soccer fan? If so, which teams do you support? Would you like to attend their match or even have a chance to practice with them?
I like watching soccer and I certainly enjoyed being on the pitch at Evian with players like Zidane but I’m not a huge follower. I only know a few players and teams and only watch when Japanese national team plays. Maybe if the schedule allows, I’d love to go see Pilsen play but I think I’ll pass on practicing with them because I am not very good.
Looking back to the first part of the 2013 season, how do you feel about it?
I feel good about how I’ve played, especially towards the end of the first half. I’ve had a few tournaments where I was in contention early in the year but lately I’m more consistent so hopefully by keeping this up, I can capture a victory.
What are your expectations for the tournament in Pilsen?
I just want to enjoy it. Obviously I want to play well and be in contention but like I mentioned before, I want to go sightseeing, experience the culture and maybe try Czech food. For me the more I get to enjoy my life outside of golf, the better I play on the course.
There are quite new faces and also winners on LET. How tough is the competition now?
There are many new faces that surface every year and the competition gets really tough. It is the same in Japan also. This is great to see and just shows how much golf has become a global sport.
Did you also change anything in your golf game and preparation recently?
No, I have not. But I’ve worked on having a good balance between when I’m playing and when I’m not. It’s important for me to stay refreshed and motivated about playing, instead of golf being the only part of my life.
What do you do to relax when not playing golf?
I like to hang out with my friends and go shopping but lately, I enjoy cooking. It’s mostly Japanese food and I try to cook whenever I can since I usually go out to eat when I’m on the road.
Can you reveal any details regarding your perfect day?
I have two older brothers and they both have kids. So I love spending time with my family and being auntie Ai!
Do you have any pets, or what are your favourite pastimes?
I don’t but I really love dogs. It’s tough to have one now since I travel so much and it’ll be difficult on the pet but one day, I’d like to have one or maybe two.
You are a very generous person, giving to charity. Please can you talk about what you have done and of what you are most proud?
I would say the most recent charitable activity I’ve been a part of was to help raise awareness and money for the victims of the earthquake/tsunami that hit Japan in 2011. It was between myself and two Japanese golfers (Momoko Ueda and Mika Miyazato) and was called Makeruna Nippon (Never Give Up Japan). One of the areas that were hit hard was Sendai city where I went to high school. It is still a long way from a full recovery and Makeruna Nippon is only the beginning of more relief efforts to come.
What are your golf and non-golf dreams?
I want to win a major tournament someday. That would be my golf dream. Playing on the LPGA was a big dream of mine growing up and being a major champion was another so I hope to accomplish it. For non-golf dreams, I’d just want to live life as any woman would, getting married and having kids. It is great being a professional golfer but I have to remember that I am a person who plays golf, not the other way around.