After coming through the 2018 European Tour qualifying school in fourth place, Kitayama won only his third event on the circuit less than three weeks later.
That was the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open and a mere three months after that his second success on the circuit came at the Oman Open, where he had started the final round three behind only to prevail by one.
It made him the fastest player ever to win twice and led to his Open Championship debut at Royal Portrush off the Tour’s Race to Dubai rankings.
Kitayama continued to impress. In the space of five weeks he finished third at the Italian Open, fourth at the French Open and was part of a six-way play-off for the Turkish Airlines Open won by Tyrrell Hatton. He just lost out to Robert MacIntyre in their duel to be Rookie of the Year.
Born in California, he attended the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and turned professional in 2015. His world ranking early in 2018 stood at 1,187th, but then came a victory on the Asian Development Tour, followed swiftly by two top-four finishes and a joint second place behind Justin Harding at the Asian Tour’s Royal Cup.