Japans Okamoto Elected to World Golf Hall of Fame


ST. AUGUSTING, Fla. -- Ayako Okamoto will become a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame this November as part of the Class of 2005. Okamoto was elected by the International ballot voting body, which is comprised of writers, historians and golf dignitaries from around the world.
'Ayako's playing record, both internationally and on the LPGA Tour, make her eminently qualified for golf's highest honor,' said LPGA Commissioner Ty M.
Votaw. 'Her inclusion in the World Golf Hall of Fame will further her status as the most popular female player in Japan.'
Okamoto has compiled 62 worldwide titles in her career, including 44 on the LPGA of Japan, 17 on the LPGA Tour and one on the Ladies European Tour. Her best year on the LPGA Tour was in 1987 when she won four times, topped the money list and earned Rolex Player of the Year honors, becoming the first international player to win the award.
'It is hard to express in words my joy in becoming a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame,' said Okamoto upon learning of her election. 'I never dreamt the choices I made during my 30-year career would lead me to join the ranks of the most respected players in the history of golf.'
This marks the third consecutive year a Japanese player will enter the World Golf Hall of Fame, following Hisako 'Chako' Higuchi in 2003 and Isao Aoki last year.
'Ayako Okamoto is an established champion around the world, and her contributions in her native Japan continue to influence the sport,' said Jack Peter, senior vice president and chief operating officer of the Hall of Fame. 'The World Golf Hall of Fame is pleased to welcome her alongside the other greats of the game.'
Okamoto received the 1987 Japanese Prime Minister's Award for her contribution to encouraging and developing sports in Japan. Additionally, she was recognized during the LPGA's 50th Anniversary in 2000 as one of its top-50 players and teachers.
Okamoto was chosen on 52 percent of the returned ballots. Jumbo Ozaki (48 percent), Sandy Lyle (29 percent), Kel Nagle (percent) and Ian Woosnam
(percent) rounded out the top-five vote getters.
Okamoto joins Vijay Singh as a member of the Class of 2005. Singh's election on the PGA TOUR/Champions Tour ballot was announced at this year's Shell Houston Open in April, where he went on to become the first person to successfully defend that title.
Additional members of the 2005 Class of Inductees will be announced at a later date. The World Golf Hall of Fame's annual Induction Ceremony is scheduled for November 14.