Emotional save for bereaved Hiratsuka

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 April, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 April, 2005, 12:00am

Tetsuji Hiratsuka willed the ball into the hole and then grabbed his heart. Relief washed over him and then sadness.

Early on Wednesday morning he watched his father lose a long-running battle with cancer, but his last words were: 'If something happens to me, you still have to play.'

Hiratsuka thwarted a brave fightback by Visa Dynasty Cup debutants Angelo Que and Mo Joong-kyung by sinking a six foot putt on the last hole to grab a half point for Japan. 'Maybe my father helped,' Hiratsuka said after the ball fell in the side of the cup and turned what was looking like a 3-3 split into a 3?-21/2 lead for his country.

Japan captain Isao Aoki said: 'I'm very proud of him.'

Hiratsuka was on his way to the airport on Tuesday when he became stuck in traffic and sensed 'something was wrong'. He went to the hospital to see his ailing father, who told him he had to go to Mission Hills no matter what happened. At four o'clock on Wednesday morning Hiratsuka was called back to the hospital and saw his father for the last time. He joined the Japan team later that day, teamed up with Toru Suzuki and looked to have a point in the bag with three holes to play yesterday.

But Mo and Que birdied the 16th and 17th holes and Que missed a 15-footer to win on the last before the 33-year-old Hiratsuka, a two-time winner on the Japan Tour, made his emotional save.

Filipino Que was far from disappointed. He was just delighted to be in the thick of the action as six months ago he was staring at the Asian Tour qualifying school.

He put in his papers on the eve of the Carlsberg Vietnam Masters in November, but four days later beat Asian Tour number one Thongchai Jaidee by two strokes, with American Corey Pavin third.

'Amazing,' was Que's reaction to being one of the stars of the first day. 'I'm really pleased with a half point. I wasn't hitting my drives so good, but Mo was putting well. And we made a lot of birdies. Everything is good for me. But six months ago I was asking myself how can I get into the Dynasty Cup? I was trying just to make cuts and now I'm here and have a half [point] in my first match. I'm really happy. I had a putt for the win but that's OK.'

Mo confessed to being nervous when introduced on the first tee. 'I haven't had that feeling in a very long time,' said the 33-year-old South Korean.

Mo, who sunk a 20-foot putt at the 17th hole to level the contest, could only praise his partner. 'Angelo played great. He hit some really good shots. We knew we needed at least half a point and we are pretty happy with that.'