Olympic silver medalist Mone Inami wins first LPGA event at Toto Japan Classic

Mone Inami became the second non-member to win on the LPGA this season, joining Rose Zhang, with her triumph at the 2023 Toto Japan Classic. Inami, 24, attended high school and university in Ibaraki, Japan, and enjoyed home support at Taihelyo Club Minori Course.

“I am very happy to get an option that I can play not only on the Japan tour but also on the U.S. tour now,” said Inami, who played on “Team Ibaraki” with six-time LPGA winner Nasa Hataoka.

“I will discuss with my team to make a final decision whether we will take this option or not.”

Inami, whose mother named her after French artist Claude Monet, has until midnight to decide if she wants to accept membership straight away so that the points and money from the win will be official for the purposes of the Race to CME Globe and LPGA money list.

Otherwise, Inami has until Nov. 13 to notify the tour of her intention to join. If she wants until then, the points and money will not be official.

Now a 13-time winner on the JLPGA, Inami came into the week No. 93 in the Rolex Rankings. Though she hadn’t previously won this season in Japan, she did have 10 top-10 finishes. At the 2021 Summer Olympics, Inami beat Lydia Ko in a playoff for the silver medal on home soil.

Inami said she has struggled physically this season and was not comfortable with her swing, changing it four times.

“I got something good feeling with my swing this week,” she said, “it worked well and I won this tournament.”

2023 Toto Japan Classic
2023 Toto Japan Classic

Mone Inami and Nasa Hataoka share a laugh during the final round of the 2023 Toto Japan Classic at the Taiheiyo Club’s Minori Course in Omitama, Ibaraki, Japan. (Photo: Yoshimasa Nakano/Getty Images)

Inami closed with a 69 on a windy Sunday, making birdie on her penultimate hole, to clip Seon Woo Bae and Shiho Kuwaki by one stroke with a 22-under 266 total, which sets a new 72-hole scoring record for the tournament.

This was Kuwaki’s first LPGA start and first appearance at the Toto. She has nine top-10 finishes on the JLPGA this season.

The first Japanese player to win this season, Inami is the 23rd player to win on the LPGA this season.

Former World No. 1 Jiyai Shin, who now plays full-time in Japan, took a share of fourth. Defending champion Gemma Dryburgh closed with a 65 to tie for sixth. Drybrugh jumped up from 60th on the CME points list to 50th. The top 60 and ties qualify for the season-ending championship, where the purse is $7 million and the winner’s share is $2 million.

Similarly, Jasmine Suwannapura, who tied for sixth, moved from 59th to 49th on the CME list with her performance.

“I’m very happy,” said Suwannapura of her CME movement. “You know, that’s my goal since the middle of the year. I’ve been playing better and better every week.”

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek