LPGA Tour Victories:
Awards and Honors:
LPGA Player of the Year, 1987
LPGA money leader, 1987
Recipient, Japanese Prime Minister's Award, 1987
Juli Inkster: "From 100 yards in, I would pick her over anybody, and she was one of the best putters out here."
Beth Daniel, on Okamoto's popularity in Japan: "She was a rock star. She was larger than life. She was like Michael Jackson or Michael Jordan in their prime."
Ayako Okamoto Biography:
With perhaps only one or two exceptions, of all the members of the World Golf Hall of Fame Ayako Okamoto got the latest start in golf. She didn't play the game until she was 22 years old.
Ayako Okamoto Biography:
In her youth and early 20s, Okamoto's game was softball. She was the star pitcher on the Japanese national champion in 1971. Her club team was owned by the textile company Daiwabo, where Okamoto worked. The company owned a golf facility next door, and when she was 22, Okamoto finally decided to start playing.
Although she pitched softball left-handed, she learned golf right-handed. Just three years later, at age 25, she won the Mizuno Corporation Tournament. In 1978, at age 28, Okamoto won the Japan LPGA Championship, and in 1981 she won eight times in Japan and topped the JLPGA money list.
Okamoto was a superstar in Japan, but she decided to branch out and give the American LPGA a try. It was a good move. From 1982 through 1992, Okamoto won 17 times, her first coming at the 1982 Arizona Copper Classic.
Okamoto was a consistent winner on the LPGA Tour, claiming three wins in 1984 and 1988, four wins in 1987 (plus four runners-up and 17 Top 10s). In 1987, she led the tour in winnings and earned the Player of the Year award.
The only thing Okamoto didn't do in America was win a major. She always seemed to be in the hunt, finishing as runner-up eight times. Her best shot was 1987, when she lost an 18-hole playoff to Laura Davies for the U.S. Women's Open crown (JoAnne Carner was also in the playoff). She was in the Top 10 at the Open every year from 1983-87, and in the Top 10 at the LPGA Championship every year from 1984-91.
Okamoto's last LPGA victory was in 1992, and '93 was her last year to play a full or half schedule in the U.S. After 1993, Okamoto returned to Japan, where she continued playing.
In addition to her 17 LPGA wins, Okamoto also won 44 times in Japan and once in Europe. She was voted into the World Golf Hall of Fame on the International ballot and entered in 2005.
The WGHOF's profile says that "Okamoto was blessed with a natural, fluid swing and a tempo that was the envy of her peers. She had wonderful hand-eye coordination and an imaginative short game."