Mone Inami, a JLPGA (Ladies Professional Golfer’s Association of Japan) Tour player, won the TOTO Japan Classic by one stroke Sunday.
She fired off a final round 69 to take the title. Now, the non-LPGA member will have a tough decision to make.
This victory for Inami makes her eligible to accept an immediate LPGA Tour membership.
If she chooses the LPGA membership, the 24-year-old will take home the $300,000 purse and earn 500 points toward the Race to the CME Globe for this year. It will also officially make 2023 her rookie season on the LPGA Tour.
However, she would not receive the Rookie of the Year points for the win.
Conversely, she can decline the membership for this year and become an LPGA rookie next year. She will still be awarded the money for the win, but neither the points or money will from this tournament will count for the purposes of the Race to CME Globe Points or the LPGA Official Money List.
Inami has until midnight on November 5 to make a decision.
The last non-LPGA member to win a tournament before Inami was Rose Zhang, who historically won her LPGA debut at the Mizuho Americas Open earlier this year.
Inami recorded four birdies and a bogey on the par-4 15th to shoot 3-under on Sunday. It was enough to hold off Seon Woo Bae and Shiho Kuwaki, who finished at 21-under. Jiyai Shin and Xiyu Lin finished 20-under to round out the top five.
Inami has 13 JLPGA victories, but this marks her first of the season and seventh top-10 finish.
“I don’t feel a big difference between Japan LPGA victory and USA victory,” Inami said. “I got a chance to have a new world coming in front of me. That kind of sense I can feel.”
After her win, Inami didn’t give much insight as to whether she would take the LPGA membership.
“I am very happy to get an option that I can play not only on the Japan Tour but also on the US tour now. I will discuss with my team to make a final decision on whether we will take this option or not.”
If Inami were to take the membership, she would become the 13th first-time winner this season.
Meanwhile, the aforementioned Zhang once again impressed.
After three rounds in the 60s, Zhang shot a final-round 70 Sunday to finish in a tie for 15th. She was the highest finishing American in the field, with a leaderboard littered with local young Japanese players.
If Inami passes on membership, maybe she’ll put together a 2024 rookie season like we witnessed from the phenom Zhang.
Savannah Leigh Richardson is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. You can follow her on Twitter @SportsGirlSL and Instagram @savannah_leigh_sports for more golf coverage. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough too.