Soto Miruko.. the eleven-year-old achieves the first grand slam in junior golf

The girl Soto Miroko, who turned eleven years old in August this year, has made a big splash in the world of golf, after she managed to win the European Children’s Championship organized by the US Kids Golf Foundation last June. Miruko started playing at the age of one and now spends three to four days a week away from home immersed in training. In this article, we take a look at this rising star and her family.

miracle baby

Soto Miroku made history when he won the European Children’s Golf Championship, held at the Royal Musselburgh Golf Club in Scotland, a prestigious course founded in the 1700s. During her three-day winning streak, Soto birdied 54 holes and finished 14 holes ahead of her nearest second-placed competitor. It is noteworthy that Miroko won the World Junior Championships in 2017 and 2018, the Malaysian World Championship in 2019 and the World Junior Championship in 2021, becoming the first player to win four major championships in the world of junior golf.

With a beaming smile, Miruko introduces herself to us: “I started playing golf when I was a year and a half old, and trained with the aim of winning the four major titles. I am honored to be the first junior golfer to achieve this feat.”

But Miruko’s ambitions are not only limited to junior competitions, as she aims to win the gold medal in the Brisbane Olympics, to be held in 2032, and to become the most famous golfer in the world.

If there is one word that can describe Miroko and her family, it is “exceptional”. She does what no one else has done before, she is the epitome of genius.

Since first picking up golf at such a young age, Miroko has continued to improve her skills under the guidance of her father, Soto Kenichi, a Buddhist scholar and former professor at the University of Tokyo. Guided by her father, Miroko won the 2017 and 2018 World Junior Championships, gaining overnight fame for her famous post-match statement: “I’m number one!”

hard workouts

The Soto family’s educational philosophy is unique: they don’t focus too much on going to school. They enroll Miruko in a public elementary school in her hometown of Ota, Gunma Prefecture, but she only attends two or three days a week, spending most of her time improving her golf skills at the family’s second home in Hitachi Omiya, Ibaraki Prefecture, near a golf course 5 Country Sunnyfield, which is his permanent training center.

“Parents need to think with their children about the best ways to help them develop their unique qualities and strengths,” says Kenichi. Of course, this is based on the assumption that they know exactly what sets their children apart. In Miroku’s case, golf was everything to her. Miroko golfs six to ten hours a day at Ibaraki and continues her education and always gets good grades without going to school most days of the week.”

The Soto family’s educational philosophy also applies to the two sons, Momotaro and Mungo. When Miruku played in Scotland in June this year, her two brothers took time out of school to personally cheer her up. All five family members, including mother Miyuki, traveled to Scotland to cheer on the daughter, after which they toured Britain where they visited London and spent the whole day in the British Museum there.

Miruko describes her impressions of the museum: “There were a lot of mummies, it was incredible! I was surprised that the female mummies had breasts.” She says her father noticed that although the museum was very cool, many of the exhibits were brought to Britain from former colonies, some even called it a booty museum. But there is also a positive side to this matter, which is that the theft of these antiquities and their collection here preserved them to a great extent, as it enabled scientists to study them. We must know that “the world is complicated.”

“We develop our senses by seeing things with our eyes and experiencing them with the rest of our senses,” says Miyuki, her eyes focused on her children. I think we learn a lot of things more deeply through practice and not from textbooks.”

Yokomin Sakura’s father trains Miruko

Kenichi, inexperienced in the world of golf, says he has read over 1,000 golf manuals to find the right techniques to teach Miruko, but he doesn’t rely entirely on his own abilities, he hired other coaches to help her train. Among the many trainers who coached Miroko is Yokomin Yoshiro, whom they call “coach”.

Coach Yoshiro Yokomin, left, instructs Soto Miroko.

Yokomin “father and former trainer of the 23-time Japanese Women’s Champion Yokomin Sakura” began training Miruko in August 2022. In addition to Sakura, Yoshiro also coached others in their childhood, including his eldest daughter Rui, as well as champion golfers Kuzuma Genichiro and Waikimura Tomoya, Izumido Daijiro and Kuzuma Kotono. “Looking back, I enjoyed my life more when Sakura was Miroko’s age,” says Yokomin. I am happy to once again bring my expertise to pro golf with Miruku. She is a very talented girl.” Yokomin added, with happiness on her face, “I hope to help her develop into a golfer greater than Sakura.” It seems that Miroko is also very excited as she is under a coach as big as mr. Yokomin.

American professional golfer Grant Godfrey was also assisted as coach for a short period. Kenichi explains another benefit of getting Godfrey’s services: “By talking to Grant, Miruko was also able to get free English lessons.”

Miruko has a special training environment, and the family home in Ota even has a 50-meter lawn, where Miruku can practice long shots. They also have a 10-meter synthetic grass course, and the family installed the latest golf simulator equipment in their garage, equipment that can measure distance, spin and initial ball velocity. While in Hitachi Omiya, Miroku is also keen to practice at 5 Country Sunnyfield Golf Course.

    Soto Miruko trains with her father Kenichi in the family garage using a simulator that can measure distance, spin and ball speed.
Soto Miruko trains with her father Kenichi in the family garage using a simulator that can measure distance, spin and ball speed.

12 sponsorship deals

This year started with good news for the little girl who dreams of becoming the world’s number one golfer. Sponsorship restrictions imposed on amateur players have been lifted. Since then, offers have started pouring in for the promising player.

Soto Miruko practices short shots at home with her father.
Soto Miruko practices short shots at home with her father.

Starting with signing his first sponsorship deal with popular golf hardware store Golf5, Miroku now has sponsorship contracts with major companies such as furniture giant Nitori, candy maker Oh Mikakuto, and Ishido School for Soroban Teaching. For calculations based on the decimal system, the car dealer “100% Shinchakan”, the liquor company “Sarif Baviraj”, the real estate developer “Biscotti House” and the tire company “Nita”. Her golf bag is also branded by Japan’s leading online retailer “Rakuten”, and the cap is branded by “SMBC Nikko Security & Jukai”, a public welfare institution.

In July, she signed a deal to wear socks from shoe manufacturer Captain U. Socks are usually included in an entire sportswear agreement, but Miruku has a separate agreement with unprecedented terms. Apparently, this is a massive 20-year deal during which the company pays out 1 million yen annually. I think this is a good sponsorship deal that will give her a solid footing to become a seasoned golfer.

At the age of eleven, and while still classified as an amateur player, Miruko was able to sign 12 sponsorship deals, more than many professional players. Miruko takes this great responsibility very seriously. “I’m still in primary school, so I don’t know the details of the agreement or the amount of money paid, but I will do my best for everyone who supports me.”

Message from Miura Kazuyoshi

Miroko’s popularity also subjected her to harsh criticism. And that’s exactly what happened when she finished 17th at the Junior World Championships in July, a month after the European Championships, during which she performed so well. Miruko spoke openly about her disappointment: “I was very disappointed. I couldn’t win while many fans had their hopes on me.”

But soccer player Miura Kazuyoshi, a former national team player respected by Kenichi, sent her a heartwarming message of encouragement that helped her overcome criticism and get back on her feet. She helped me a lot to deal with criticism in a positive way. way, and motivated me to do my best to be a true athlete like mr. to become Kazuo. The saying goes: It’s normal to be in sports newspaper headlines when you win, but only true champions make headlines when they lose.

Some describe Miroko as a prodigy player, and she also refers to herself with the same expression. The truth is that it was her effort that made this miracle happen. Miroko practices for about six to ten hours every day to set new unprecedented records by becoming “the first in history, and number one in Japan and the world in golf”. She continues in her efforts by turning not only praise and attention but also criticism into her driving force. I think everyone is excited to see her achieve more.

(Originally written in Japanese. Banner photo: Soto Miruko after winning the US Junior Golf European Championship and achieving the first grand slam in junior golf, in June 2022. Courtesy of Soto Kenichi)

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