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Hanako Kawasaki Wins Vietnam Junior Open 2017

Year 13 BIS HCMC student Hanako Kawasaki epitomises the word ‘ambitious’. With only 5 years of golfing experience, Hanako has this year been crowned the winner of the Vietnam Junior Open, making her one of the best amateur golfers in the country. Since then, she was one of only 7 golfers to represent Vietnam at the 2017 SEA Games, all whilst juggling the demands of her International Baccalaureate Diploma.

  • Hanako Kawasaki - BIS HCMC Success Story

The IB Diploma is renowned for its rigorous workload but this hasn’t stopped Hanako from reaching for her dreams and getting involved in all aspects of school life; from the basketball and volleyball team, the Events Committee as well as a range of community service initiatives. We talk to Hanako to find out more about her golfing achievements and how she manages to balance her time between school and golf, all whilst successfully retaining a social life!

Hanako, how long have you been playing golf for and what inspired you to start playing?

I have been playing golf for 5 years now, of which 2 have been competitive. I was 12 when I started but ironically, when I first became aware of golf I actually disliked it!

This changed when my mom brought me to the driving range where she practiced and I was forced to watch her hit some shots. I was immediately intrigued. Initially, my first couple of shots were horrendous, I even failed to make contact with the ball. Witnessing my mom beat me in a sport infuriated me, and it gave me the incentive to come back and practice until I beat her. Eventually, I did and it made me the competitor I am right now.

Do you have any golfing idols? People who inspire you?

There are several aspects of a golfer that makes them who they are. I don’t have one particular idol, but several. I am inspired by Tiger Woods’ history; the fact he had all odds against him, yet still managed to achieve his dreams. I am inspired by Lexi Thompson’s grit and determination; the way she accepts misfortunes and how she bounces back.

What do you enjoy most about playing golf?

Bobby Jones, a renowned golfer, once said, “Golf is a game played on a five-inch course - the distance between your ears”.

Golf is unlike any other sport. It requires focus and patience. I enjoy the challenge of spending hours just to perfect an action that happens within a second - the swing. During a round of golf, there are so many factors that must be considered so I enjoy the process of deconstructing a new golf course that I play.

How do you feel when you arrive at a tournament?

When I stand on the first tee, I have adrenaline racing through my body. Despite my growing experience, I am still often very nervous when they first announce my name to start.

Tell us about your win at the Vietnam Junior Open this year!

Winning the Vietnam Junior Open 2017 is by far my biggest achievement. The field of players was extremely competitive, some of which spend at least 8 hours a day training. I felt so proud of myself, especially when the tournament was immediately after my Year 12 end of year exams. I felt as if the victory truly highlighted my efficient work ethic. It was a cathartic moment for me and my family, as I felt my hard work was paying off.

So how often do you train for your golf tournaments? Have you had to make unusual changes to your lifestyle to improve?

Like any other athlete, I have an intense training schedule. Golf is unique - practicing on the driving range and playing on the course are completely different. While one can hit perfect shots on the driving range, they can also mishit the ball on the course. On the course, there are so many factors to consider: lie, slope, weather. I am at the driving range at least 5 times a week, and at the course once a week. As golf is so mentally draining, I also take mindfulness sessions. It helps me become a more controlled, centred person on the course, and it allows me to keep my attention in the present instead of the future.

What do you like to do outside of golf?

Despite my intense training schedule and taking the rigorous IB program, I do have a social life. Occasionally, I go out to the cinema and shop with my friends, to relieve myself of stress. I enjoy being involved in various community services in school. Currently, I am an active, leading member of a community service club called ‘Growing Minds’ in school. I enjoy playing with the children, and making them happy.

I also find it important to promote and advocate important global issues in the world, and I do this by being a member of the Events Committee in school. I spend a lot of time planning the events with the Committee, such as the recent Hungry for Peace Week and ensuring the important message is reflected in the events. Although golf is my main sporting focus, I am also part of the volleyball and basketball team in school. Golf has a strong sense of individualism in the sport, but I also enjoy playing various team sports as well.

How do you find balancing your school work, social life and playing golf competitively?

While being the best golfer I possibly can be is important, living a balanced life is equally important. Like anyone my age, I still enjoy shopping, and entertainment when available, but my golf often clashes with my other hobbies.

I consider sleep regulation as an important factor for my well-being so I try to have at least 9 hours of sleep a night to allow me to recover from the present day and prepare myself for the next. Being a student-athlete is exceptionally challenging, and time management is a vital skill. The IB is known for its rigour, trying to achieve a high score whilst spending many hours training does become significantly draining. At times, I do exhaust myself, but eventually recover through grit and determination.

There have also been occasions where I have missed a school day due to my competitions but I’m very fortunate that BIS is very understanding and acknowledges my absences. Most of my teachers help me to catch up on the work I missed, by offering to go over the work I may not understand. I am grateful for the support I receive academically, it often helps me feel less stressed about missing a school day for my golf competitions.

What are your short, medium and long term goals?

My short term goal is to attain a respectable IB score and to continue to perform well in national and international tournaments I play in. My medium term goal is to get recruited into a good university, where I can be intellectually stimulated whilst improving my golf. My long term goal is to become satisfied and successful with my career - whether that be golf or in something else.

A summary of Hanako’s achievements so far:

  • 2nd place in Vietnam Ladies National 2015
  • Qualified for a Korean Ladies’ Professional Association (KLPA) Tournament 2016
  • Vietnam Ladies National Champion 2016
  • T9 Royal Selangor Malaysia Ladies’ Open 2017
  • Vietnam Junior Open Champion 2017
  • Participant in the 29th SEA Games 2017

Still to come...

  • December 2017 - Vietnam Ladies National
  • December 2017 - KLPA (Professional Event)
  • February 2018 - Women’s Amateur Asia Pacific
  • March 2018 - Nick Faldo Asia Grand Final

Although as a school we are not directly involved in Hanako’s training, her attitude towards both her education and sport is one to be admired; “Hanako has a fantastic attitude in lessons. She is always willing to try new sports and go outside her comfort zone. Alongside her outstanding achievements in golf, Hanako has been a pivotal part of the U19 Girls Basketball Team.” - Mr Jonny McLoughlin, PE Teacher.

#BISStory #StartsWithASingleStep #BeAmbitious

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