Haru Nomura’s understated on-course demeanor masks an outgoing personality that has driven the Japanese golfer to a position among the game’s top players.
The 5-foot-4, 23-year-old has been jokingly dubbed “Shorty” by her caddie because of her small stature. However, Nomura is anything but short on adventure. She currently lives in Hawaii, where a pastime to stay in shape is surfing at some of the world’s most picturesque beaches. After a victory in San Francisco earlier this year, Nomura’s first focus after the win was to travel to Las Vegas because “I love playing blackjack, so that’s what I plan to do. When I get there, I’m just going to drop off my luggage and go.” She took up golf after her grandmother, a non-golfer, encouraged her to play because of the international influence by South Korea’s Se Ri Pak. She turned pro at age 17.
“I played on the Japan Tour for two years and returned to the United States to play on the LPGA,” Nomura said this week. “Because I have an outgoing personality, I thought the United States would suit me better. Culturally, I like how the United States is more open, so I think the United States is a very good fit for me.”
Nomura’s background is a bit different from most of the Asian golfers. She was born in Japan to a Japanese father and South Korean mother and moved to South Korea at age 6 where she remained through high school. She claims Japanese citizenship but carries both flags on her bag – Japan for her country and South Korea because that is her sponsor’s origin.
Ranked 20th in the Rolex Women’s Golf Rankings, she is the top-ranked Japanese women’s golfer. She and Hideki Matsuyama, Japan’s top men’s golfer at No. 6 in the world, were both born in 1992 and represent a bright future for Japan golf. Tokyo will host the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, with Kasumigaseki Country Club as the host site.
This season has brought Nomura’s name more in the public eye. Early this season, she fired a final-round 65 to beat world No. 1 Lydia Ko by three strokes in the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open and became the first Japanese winner on the LPGA since Mika Miyazato in 2012. She won her second LPGA title in April at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic, topping the field by five strokes in windy conditions. At the Olympic golf competition in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Nomura gained a lot of attention for a whiffed tap-in putt in the first round, but many forget that she shot a final-round 65 to finish T4, one stroke behind bronze medal winner Shanshan Feng. Her strong performance has drawn comparisons to Chako Higuchi, who is a World Golf Hall of Fame member and the only Japanese player to win a major (1977 LPGA Championship in North Myrtle Beach, S.C.), either woman or man.
The last three weeks of the season offer a challenge for Nomura. She has a proven ability to score low, ranking third on the LPGA in birdies (380), behind only Ariya Jutanugarn and Brooke Henderson. That total exceeds 2015 by more than 100 birdies. Her putting has lifted her game in that same capacity, as she ranks seventh on the LPGA (28.98 putts per round), compared to a 30.06 average in 2015. Her place in the Race to the CME Globe is quite tenuous, standing ninth this week entering her home-country event, the TOTO JAPAN CLASSIC. The top nine entering the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship have a mathematical chance to win the season-long race in the final event.