St. Augustine, Fla.
Ayako Okamoto, who won 62 times around the world and became the only Japanese player to win the LPGA money title, has been elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Okamoto, 54, was elected on the International ballot, the Hall of Fame announced May 23. She earned 52 percent of votes cast by writers, Hall of Fame members and golf officials, and joins Vijay Singh – previously elected from the PGA Tour ballot – in this year’s class.
Neither received the minimum 65 percent for election. However, the Hall of Fame added a stipulation two years ago that if no candidate receives the minimum, the player with the most votes will be elected as long as that player gets at least 50 percent of the vote.
Jumbo Ozaki received 48 percent of the vote and two-time major winner Sandy Lyle got 29 percent. Rounding out the top five were Kel Nagle (25 percent) and Ian Woosnam (25 percent).
“It is hard to express in words my joy in becoming a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame,” Okamoto said. “I never dreamt the choices I made during my 30-year career would lead me to join the ranks of the most respected players in the history of golf.”
The induction ceremony will be Nov. 14 at the World Golf Village. Singh has not decided whether he will be inducted this year or defer until next year because of a scheduling conflict.
Okamoto was voted among the top 50 players and teachers during the LPGA’s 50-year anniversary in 2000. She won 17 times on the LPGA, including four times in 1987, when she was LPGA Player of the Year and captured the money title.
This is the third consecutive year a Japanese player will enter the Hall of Fame. Isao Aoki was elected last year, and Chako Higuchi was selected in 2003.