The decision by former world number one Ai Miyazato to retire from competitive golf at the end of the 2017 season did not come as a surprise to her peers but it has left many of them feeling great sadness that one of the game's most popular players will be bowing out.
The ever-smiling Miyazato, a nine-time winner on the LPGA Tour who inspired a new generation of players in her native Japan, made a huge impact during her 14 years on the circuit with her gracious demeanor and willingness to engage with the fans, the media, her competitors and anyone else who crossed her path.
"If there is a nicer person on the planet than Ai Miyazato, I haven't met him or her yet," said LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan. “She treats everybody with class, she's has never said no to a fan, she's been incredible to me and my staff.
"To be that talented, to be that friendly and to be that good of a team mate to the LPGA, that combination doesn't come around very often. She is going to be sorely missed inside and outside the ropes."
China's Shanshan Feng, who clinched her seventh victory on the LPGA Tour at the LPGA Volvik Championship on Sunday, echoed Whan's theme, saying: "I was a little down when I heard it (her decision to retire) because Ai has been great on the tour, on and off the course.
"She is not only a great player but she is also very good off the course. She has great relationships with the players, with staff and everybody else on the Tour - spectators and media. We will all miss her when she is going to be away from us. We go to Japan (on the LPGA Tour) every year and hopefully she can come out to watch us."
Haru Nomura, a 24-year-old Japanese who has won three times on the LPGA Tour over the past two seasons, was close to tears as she expressed what Miyazato had meant to her and to the growth of the game in her homeland.
"I feel a little bit sad for her as she is only (aged) 31," said Nomura. "I met her (for the) first time six years ago, and she was always nice to me. I watched her play when I was an amateur and I feel like she is the Se Ri Pak of Japan."
South Korean Se Ri Pak, a Hall of Famer who won 25 times on the LPGA Tour, blazed the trail for her younger compatriots to follow two decades ago after clinching two majors in her rookie season in 1998, the McDonald's LPGA Championship and U.S. Women's Open.
INSPIRED COUNTLESS PLAYERS
While Miyazato never landed a major victory, coming closest with ties for third at the 2009 Women's British Open and also at the Women's PGA Championship in 2006 and 2010, she inspired countless Japanese players after spending 11 weeks in the No. 1 spot on the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings in 2010.
"For what she's done for for women's golf in Japan, and her achievements out here on the LPGA Tour, you've got to take your hat off to her," said Norway's Suzann Pettersen.
"I'll definitely miss her. She is probably the friendliest person out here on tour and she can leave the game knowing that she left the best of what she had."
Miyazato, who formally announced her decision to quit tournament golf before the end of the year at a news conference in Tokyo on Monday, said she first began to consider retirement "four or five years ago" when she struggled to stay motivated.
"It became difficult to keep my motivation as before," said the 5-foot-2-inch golfer who is known for her slow, smooth swing. "I consulted with my mental coach and he told me, as a player, there is a time to struggle (with motivation). I kept trying for four 4 years, but it (my motivation) did not come back.
"After I decided that this would be my last season, I have higher motivation now. I have received many messages from many people, that I have done well. Many players, younger and older, have told me that they will miss me. I am very thankful. Friends, players, family were very warm and accepted about my retirement.”