Ayaka Kaneko is coming off her first full year playing golf as a tour pro, and heads into LPGA Q-School Finals in December. She was born in Japan (her father played pro baseball for the Chunichi Dragons, but spent her teens years in Hawaii, winning numerous tournaments and awards as part of the powerhouse Hawaii Junior Golf Association. Ayaka finished second at the 2006 Callaway Golf Junior World Golf Championship and was runner-up in the 2007 U.S. Junior Girls Amateur Championship. She was a 2007 Junior All-America.
As an amateur she played in several LPGA tournaments (first in 2006) and in a couple JLPGA events. On the Futures Tour in 2010, Ayaka made 12 of 17 cuts with a best finish of 15th. She turns 21 in January of 2011.
1. Tell us about your background, born in one country and raised in another.
I was born and raised in Japan and I moved to Hawaii when I was 12. I graduated high school in Hawaii. I don't remember much about growing up in Japan just because I was so young. All my memories and friends are in Hawaii. I am still Japanese, but I love America :)
2. This year (2010) was your first full year as a professional golfer. What lessons - what surprises - were there along the way?
It was my first full year as a professional. I played on the Duramed Futures Tour. It was tough, yet fun. Every week I had to travel to a different state and get used to the new course. It was a very busy and challenging summer for me but I got to meet lots of nice people and I made some close friends over this summer.
I had a very funny surprise this summer. It was at The International at Concord in New Hampshire. After the first round me and my mom went to dinner and I think my mom was really tired. I was standing right next to her when she was closing the trunk. She didn't realized I was standing there and she just closed the trunk on my head. That night I had a really bad headache and I was dizzy all night.
The next day I woke up and went to the course but I couldn't play because I was too out of it. So, I withdrew from the tournament and I went to the hospital for an MRI. Nothing was wrong with my brain and bone but my mom was extremely sorry that I had to WD and that I had the worst headache for a week. It was pretty funny to me.
3. What ingredients are required for a really great luau?
Kalua pig, Hawaiian music, and hula!
4. In September you finished sixth at the California sectional in LPGA Q-School. Can you describe the pressure that golfers feel at Q-School?
I think Q-School is something totally different, pressure is so high. Q-School can truly change your life. It can lead you to a different world. I tried not to put so much pressure on myself. I tried to enjoy the moment and the opportunity I had.
5. How are you preparing for the Q-School finals in December?
I will be practicing at LPGA International until Q-School finals. I still have time to work on the things that I have to improve.