Japan’s Takumi Kanaya begins the defence of his International Series Oman title tomorrow at Al Mouj Golf in Muscat – aiming to do “exactly the same” as his breakthrough victory 12 months ago.

In what was a week of many firsts at the inaugural International Series Oman for the Japanese star he recorded a fine four-shot win, for his maiden professional victory overseas.

It also marked the first time that an International Series event had been won by a player from Japan, and surprisingly he became the first golfer from his country to win an Asian Tour event outside of Japan since Tetsuji Hiratsuka claimed the Black Mountain Masters in 2010.

The 25-year-old from Hiroshima, said: “In 2023, I lined up against some of the best players in the world and proved that I could win. This year I want to do exactly the same. Defending my title will not be easy against this strong field, but I know I have what it takes on a truly challenging course.”

A veritable feast of phenomenal players are competing in what is the first of 10 International Series events this season, at what is the second top of the year on the Asian Tour, following last week’s IRS Prima Malaysian Open.

Last week’s champion David Puig from Spain, and his compatriot Eugenio Chacarra, South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel, Chileans Joaquin Niemanna and Mito Pereira, plus India’s Anirban Lahiri are just a few of the glittering names from the LIV Golf League playing along with a plethora of Asian Tour stars like Filipino Miguel Tabuena, Hong Kong’s Taichi Kho and Jazz Janewattananond from Thailand.

Kanaya, world ranked 129, has been paired in one of the marquee groups along with two other standouts Denwit Boriboonsub from Thailand and Australian Lucas Herbert – who is making his debut on The International Series.

The stunning scenic coastline of Al Mouj Golf provided the perfect background for some brilliant front-running golf by Kanaya last season.

“It is an honour to win the event, an International Series tournament,” said Kanaya at the time, after what was his first success since April of 2021 when he won the Token Homemate Cup, on the Japan Tour.

It was arguably the most important win of his career. He turned professional in 2020 after a glittering amateur career that saw him win the 2015 Japan Amateur, the Asia Pacific Amateur in 2018, and the team gold medal at the Asian Games that year. He also won the Mitsui Sumitomo Visa Taiheiyo Masters in 2019 as an amateur and was ranked the world’s number one amateur for 55 weeks. In 2020 he was victorious in the Dunlop Phoenix tournament.

Last year was only his third start as a professional in an Asian Tour event, and it was his maiden appearance in an International Series tournament.

And it proved to be the catalyst for more silverware, as later in the year he triumphed twice in Japan, at the BMW Japan Golf Tour Championship Mori Building Cup and the Fujisankei Classic. He eventually finished the season third on the Japan rankings.

Since his success last year, still no Japanese player has won on the Asian Tour nor The International Series. Furthermore, no player has successfully defended an International Series event, so on a course that he loves and respects so much – and was voted by his peers on the Asian Tour as the joint-best course of the year – there is an excellent window of opportunity to make waves on the coastline of Oman once more.

Image: Paul Lakatos/ Asian Tour