BY: Lali Stander
Shaun Norris took the Rookie of the Year honours on the Japan Golf Tour last year, but on Sunday, the big-hitting South African took his status in Japan to a whole new level when he won the 17th JGT Championship Mori Building Cup in Ibaraki.
Norris fired a final round 64 at the Shishido Hills Country Club to seal success with a four shot victory over Seungsu Han of South Korea on 13 under 271. The win – worth ¥30,000,000 (roughly R3.4 million) – elevated Norris to second in the Official Money List, but it’s a victory that keeps on giving.
The breakthrough in his eighth start this season also netted the 35-year-old Norris a berth in this year’s Open Championship at Royal Birkdale in July and a start at the World Golf Championship – Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone in early August.
“It was just a beautiful day,” said a delighted Norris.
“It was just one of those days where everything went my way. I struck the ball beautifully, kept the ball in and the putter did the rest. I was never in any kind of trouble and I capitalised on all my opportunities.
“It’s a simple case of having the self-belief that you can succeed and putting in the hard work to make that happen. Having the support of my wife Candice and the guys at Lumenrock Sports Management International over the last couple of years has kept me positive and driven and it’s great to get rewarded for that commitment in the biggest way possible.”
Norris launched into contention with rounds of 67, 72 and 68 and was tied for third at the start of the final round, one shot back from co-leaders Filipino Angelo Que and Australian Brendan Jones, a 14-time winner on the Japan Golf Tour.
Birdies at two, four and five kept him in touch with Jones as Que fell out of contention and the Silver Lakes golfer took the lead when he erased a lone drop at nine with an eagle two at the par four 10th.
Further gains at 11 and 13 helped Norris to open up a comfortable gap on his pursuers and the 35-year-old signed off in style with a birdie at the final hole.
Japan’s Satoshi Kodaira tied for third with Jones.
Norris – a two-time Sunshine Tour winner – broke into the winner’s circle on the international stage when he lifted the Yeangder Tournament Players Championship on the Asian Tour in October 2015.
Just four months later, he won the Asian and Japan Golf Tours co-sanctioned Leopalace21 Myanmar Open, which helped him to the rookie of the year award last year.
The Japan Tour will now have a one month break ahead of its next event beginning in Hokkaido on July 6th.