Japan's Ryo Hisatsune loses grip of his club after he...

Japan's Ryo Hisatsune loses grip of his club after he tees off on the 11th hole during the Australian Open golf championship at Victoria golf course in Melbourne, Australia, on Dec. 2, 2022. A life-changing few days await a number of globally unrecognized players in Dubai this week as they head into the World Tour Championship with far more than winning the season-ending European tour event on their minds. Credit: AP/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake

VIRGINIA WATER, England — Ryo Hisatsune was voted as the European tour's top rookie on Tuesday after a memorable season that saw the 21-year-old Japanese player win the French Open and earn dual membership with the PGA Tour.

Hisatsune became the first Japanese golfer to receive the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year award, beating a list of contenders that included highly rated Swede Ludvig Aberg.

Hisatsune was outside the world’s top 200 at the start of the 2023 season. Three years ago, he lost his card on Japan’s leading tour.

Now he's preparing to play against the best in the world on the other side of the Atlantic after finishing among the top 10 players in the European tour's season-ending Race to Dubai rankings who were not already exempt for the PGA Tour. He posted eight top-10 finishes, including the win in France, and is ranked No. 81 in the world.

“I’m so happy, it’s such a surprise,” Hisatsune said.

Nick Faldo, Colin Montgomerie, Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm are among the previous recipients of the award.

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