Amelia Lewis (left) warming up for the Sanya Ladies Open with Anne Van Dam

Fifth year Ladies European Tour member Amelia Lewis from the United States may be a long way from Jacksonville, Florida, but she feels right at home at Yalong Bay Golf Club where the seventh Sanya Ladies Open gets under way in Hainan, China, from Thursday.

Lewis, 25, tied for the first-round lead with an opening round of 67 and went on to share eighth place in last year’s tournament.

Buoyed by positive memories and fresh from a fourth place finish in the Xiamen International Ladies Open a fortnight ago, she is full of confidence and said: “I really like the course and feel very comfortable here. It’s like how Florida courses are, so I feel at home and I feel pretty confident because my game is good. It was good in Xiamen. I feel like I can improve upon that. I have a couple of wins on the Sun Coast Tour in Florida, but I have a lot of second place finishes on Symetra and LET so I want that win! It would be nice to get it here.”

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Lewis shared a hotel room with the eventual winner Anne Van Dam during the Xiamen International Ladies Open and the pair played a match at Yalong Bay Golf Club on Sunday, which ended all square and produced a lot of birdies.
Lewis, whose lowest round was 63 (-9) in the 2014 RACV Ladies Masters, added: “I think we’re going to see a lot of birdies. Most of the par 5s are reachable and you can get really close to the other ones and have a little wedge. I feel like a lot of low scoring could happen out here.”

Last year, China’s Xi Yu Lin won the tournament for the second consecutive year with a 54-hole score of 13-under-par and she won on 14-under a year earlier. Lewis will have to be at her best over all three rounds to stop the impressive 20-year-old from claiming a third straight title on her home soil.

Furthermore, the field of 126 competitors also includes recent first-time winners Van Dam and Nuria Iturrios, the LET’s leading Rookie professional, as well as Solheim Cup players Gwladys Nocera and Caroline Hedwall, as well as tournament champions Celine Herbin, Ssu-Chia Cheng and Connie Chen.

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There are seven Olympians in the field with the defending champion Lin, who recorded an historical hole-in-one in Rio, joined by Nocera, Klara Spilkova, Ashleigh Simon, Chloe Leurquin, Christine Wolf and Victoria Lovelady. However, Lewis’s results are improving by the week after recovering from gall bladder surgery in January.

She started the year with three LET events in New Zealand and Australia, then after a stretch on the LPGA Tour, returned for the Ricoh Women’s British Open, followed by ties for 12th and 11th in Germany and Spain respectively.

“It really hurt in New Zealand and I had to conserve my energy, but I wanted to play because it was one of my favourite events,” she explained.

“In the beginning it was hard, because in Australia it was tough as it was hard to walk, as it was right next to my diaphragm. My ab muscles were really sensitive so I couldn’t walk fast or breathe deeply. I had some physios work on it and I had to change my diet. It was a big adjustment. You don’t realise that you use your abs for everything: to get out of bed, even.

“After my surgery and after adjusting I switched coaches to Brian Mogg and I feel stable now. I’m healthy and I’ve fixed my swing a bit and I’m playing better.”

Along with Beth Allen, who plays a full schedule and Katie Burnett, Lewis is one of three Americans who choose to play regularly on the Ladies European Tour.

She continued: “I love Europe in general… I love the tour and the people and have a lot of good friends out here. I just love travelling and seeing new places.” On Sanya, she added: “If I had to vacation in China this is the place I would do it because it’s beautiful. It’s paradise!”

The seventh Sanya Ladies Open will be played over three rounds from Thursday to Saturday.

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Amelia (centre) with Victoria Lovelady (right) and Thanh ThiTran last week in Hong Kong.