A new generation of Chinese stars will be out in force at the US$600,000 World Ladies Championship in China this week as they pit their skills against a selection of the best players on the planet.
Headlining the joint Ladies European Tour and China LPGA Tour event at Mission Hills Haikou on the tropical island of Hainan are Major winners Inbee Park, Suzann Pettersen and So Yeon Ryu.
But the top-10 ranked trio will be facing a stiff local challenge across the resort’s signature par-73 Blackstone Course.
Leading the way for China is 19-year-old Janet Lin Xiyu and the Guangzhou native said she would be relishing the chance to play in front of the Chinese fans once play kicks off on Thursday.
“It feels great to back here in China. I love playing in front of the Chinese fans. I’ve had two tournaments so far this season and my game is getting better,” said Lin, the highest-ranked Chinese player in the field.
“I took some time off at the end of last year so I’m a little bit rusty but I am feeling better the more I play.”
Lin had a stellar season in 2014 – winning her first Ladies European Tour title with a five-stroke victory at the Sanya Ladies Open in November, while her joint third at the Hyundai China Ladies Open at Mission Hills Shenzhen last December saw the youngster claim the China LPGA Tour Order of Merit title.
Lin said she was also looking forward to representing her country, alongside Lu Wanyao, in the unique team event at Mission Hills Haikou.
The World Ladies Championship offers a format of three competitions – the individual pro event, a two-player team event and an individual event for amateurs – and Lin said the extra competition offered Chinese players added incentive.
“We Chinese players get together for dinners and talk about how we are going, help each other out,” said Lin. “There will be more of that this week and we really hope we can all put on a good show for the fans.”
In an international field featuring 17 Chinese players, another rising homegrown star is 18-year-old Jennifer Yan Jing, who said she had so far spent the early part of the 2015 season getting to grips with the rigours of the professional circuit.
“I have been working hard,” said Yan, who finished as top amateur at last year’s Evian Championship, the last Major event of 2014.
“Overall I have just been trying to get better at everything. It’s the little details that matter. Fitness is a big issue as well as I’m young and have a lot to learn. It is great to be back here at the Blackstone Course as the greens are tough. But I am really excited to be here at Mission Hills again.”
World No.2 Park returns to Mission Hills as champion after defeating 2013 winner Pettersen, Norway’s current world No.5, in a thrilling final-round showdown last year.
The Korean is also a two-time winner of the team event, taking the title with Kim Ha Neul in 2013 before lifting the trophy with world No.8 Ryu last year. Ryu finished just behind the leading pair in third at last year’s World Ladies Championship.
Mission Hills Group Vice Chairman Mr Tenniel Chu was on hand Tuesday to welcome the star-studded international field to Haikou and said he was proud to see Chinese players making their mark in world golf.
“Mission Hills has long supported the rapid growth of golf in China and we are beginning now to see the fruits of the backing we have offered,” said Mr Chu. “These are exciting times for Chinese golfers and we are sure the local players will do our country proud this week.”
The World Ladies Championship is co-sponsored by global services company American Express; premium Italian lifestyle brand FILA; world-renowned bathroom brand TOTO; Dole, the world’s largest producer and marketer of fresh fruit and vegetables; premium beer brand Stella Artois; premium sparkling fruit juice Appletiser; sparkling natural mineral water San Pellegrino; and Jacobsen turf equipment.