LPGA players from Japan raise awareness at Kia

Ai Miyazato during the HSBC Women's Champions.

Ai Miyazato during the HSBC Women's Champions.

Ai Miyazato was on a flight from Okinawa to Tokyo on March 11 when an earthquake shifted the main island of Japan. She went to high school in Sendai, the northeast city hit hardest by the magnitude 9.0 quake and tsunami, and has homeless friends now packed into a local gymnasium. She’s grateful, though, that her loved ones are safe. Miyazato updated her blog shortly after the disaster, telling fans: “Please, don’t lose hope.”

On Tuesday in Industry, Calif., Miyazato joined fellow LPGA players Mika Miyazato (no relation) and Momoko Ueda in a news conference at the Kia Classic. The trio of Japanese stars united to raise money for their homeland, designing a logo “Makeruna Nippon,” which means “Never Give Up” in Japanese. Buttons that feature the logo were handed out at a player meeting Tuesday evening. Donations can be made to “Just Giving Japan” (www.justgiving.com/MakerunaNippon).

“The initial emotion was speechless,” said Ueda, who was in Tokyo on the freeway when the earthquake happened. “Feeling sad just can’t move us forward in the right direction. So with golf, hopefully, I can provide smiles to as many people as possible.”

Mika Miyazato wasn’t sure if coming to the U.S. to compete was the right decision. She ultimately decided that she wanted the Japanese people to “get back to their normal lives” as quickly as possible. For Miyazato, that meant playing golf on the LPGA.

“It’s certainly difficult right now, but I feel that it is one of my responsibilities as a professional golfer to go out and play,” Mika said. “Hopefully be able to provide hope and courage to the Japanese people.”

Yani Tseng was disappointed in her play at the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup last week, where she tied for 29th and didn’t qualify to raise any money for her designated charities: UNICEF and Japanese Relief. That, however, didn’t stop her from giving.

“I decided I really wanted to play for charity last week; that’s what I prepared for my schedule, too,” said Tseng, who is Taiwanese. “So I still decided to donate $50,000 to (UNICEF) and the Japanese Relief, because these are only little things that I can do to help them, and I’m very happy to do it.”

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