COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Ai Miyazato reigned as the No. 1 player in the world last year.
She’s an adored star in Japan.
Mika Miyazato? She would be the sibling trying to get out of her big sister’s shadow, if they were sisters.
Ai and Mika aren’t related, but . . .
“Everybody thinks we’re sisters,” Mika said.
Mika and Ai both grew up in Okinawa, although Ai, 26, is five years older. They first met when Mika went to Ai’s father for a golf lesson when Mika was 10. Though Mika won the Japanese Women's Amateur, she's been the “other Miyazato” for awhile now. She's striving to make her own mark as a pro.
“It’s motivating for me, yes,” Mika said. “Ai and I are good friends, but we are different, and that’s good.”
While Ai’s won 22 times around the world, Mika’s won just once as a professional, but it was a huge stride in carving her own identity. She won the Japan Women’s Open last October, a Japanese major championship.
Mika and Ai are linked this weekend in a quest to join Chako Higuchi as the only Japanese players to win one of the traditional men’s or women’s major championships. Higuchi won the LPGA Championship in 1977.
Mika and Ai were paired together in the third round of the U.S. Women’s Open with Mika leading through 36 holes at 5 under and Ai one shot back at 4 under.
“Playing together should be good for both of us,” Mika said.
There will be intense interest in Japan for obvious reasons, but they’re a feel-good story beyond the golf. Both Miyazatos are heavily involved in Japanese relief efforts to aid the victims of the natural disasters there this year. Mika says she’s donating all her winnings in major championships to the cause.