YouTuber Rick Shiels has played with long-drive champions, trick shot artists, major winners and hall of fame golfers, but revealed to AIGWomensOpen.com that the most impressive player he has ever played with is Japanese superstar Nasa Hataoka, a favourite for the title this week.
Prior to the 2018 Women’s Open at Royal Lytham and St Annes, Shiels played in a Pro-Am early in the week, and was drawn with the world number five Hataoka for his round.
“She was unbelievable” Shiels said of the Japanese star. “I think it was the surprise package, because I didn’t know her much before playing with her. When I played with her she was still pretty young, only 19, but the way she hits the golf ball is so efficient.”
Hataoka, who incredibly took up the game just a decade ago, has already accumulated 7 worldwide wins at the age of 21, and caught Sheils’ attention with her ballstriking.
“When we played with her she just never made a mistake. Every shot was just on it. The control of the ball flight was superb, the way that she managed her way around the golf course, her attitude towards hitting bad shots.”
“It’s not as though she went out and shot a 62, but the way she went out and composed herself on the golf course was incredibly impressive.”
“It's something I'll probably never forget!” Rick shiels on playing with nasa hataoka
Hataoka’s rapid ascent to the top of women’s golf in such a short period of time is evidence to Shiels of the immense talent of the three-time LPGA winner.
“Only a select few I feel can come into the game and pick it up late and still perform at an elite level” Shiels said. “So it kind of comes in all shapes and sizes.”
Shiels sees Hataoka as a new breed of superstar, alongside her fellow countrywoman and defending AIG Women’s Open champion Hinako Shibuno, yet the YouTube sensation has much earlier memories of the AIG Women’s Open.
“Believe it or not” Shiels said, “but the Women’s Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes was the first ever professional golf tournament I attended. It might have been the 2003 Women’s Open that Annika Sorenstram won or it might have been 1998, it was one of those two. I hadn’t been to a professional event before but my mum got me into golf.”
“I just always remember being astonished about how far they could hit it without really looking like they were putting a lot of effort in. Obviously they were putting effort in, but they were just so efficient.”
“So to be able to play in the Pro-Am in 2018 on the same golf course, and to play with such a talent (Nasa) it was quite mind blowing. I drove home that day and I remember thinking, ‘Wow what an experience’. It’s something I’ll probably never forget, and obviously I documented it for my YouTube channel so I’ll always be able to look back at it with fond memories.”
As for this year, Shiels is excited to watch the AIG Women’s Open once more, and has his thoughts on who can contend this week.
“I think Nasa is a great tip, naturally! But she’s almost like a favourite now going in Championships, I feel like she’s now got more pedigree rather than being an underdog. She is unbelievable.”
“I really like Olivia Cowan, I think she’s a really good player and seems like she’s got a good head on her. I’ve played lots of golf with Carly Booth, she is an unbelievable golfer and I’d love to see her do well. Camilla Lennarth too. These players just have so much skill strategy and finesse.”