Yuting Shi stretched her lead to three strokes on day two of the Xiamen International Ladies Open in China with a four-under-par 68 at Orient Golf Club in Xiamen.
Hot and breezy conditions blew several more experienced players out of contention, but with an 11-under-par aggregate after two bogey-free rounds, the 18-year-old from Beijng takes a comfortable lead into the weekend, ahead of Anne Van Dam from the Netherlands.
“I feel as though my score today, 68, is better than the 65 in the first round because the wind was much stronger and the course was more difficult,” said Shi, whose performance comes on the back of two wins in professional tournaments this season: firstly at the Zhuhai Hengqin Phoenix tree building Challenge on the China LPGA Tour in March and secondly at the China National Team Championships in September.
Her best performance in the previous two editions of the Xiamen International Ladies Open was 17th in 2014, but she knows the course well as this is her eighth tournament appearance at the venue, which hosted the Orient Masters, China Ladies Open and Xiamen Challenge over the period from 2004 until 2014.
Shi picked up four birdies on the front nine, including three on the par-5s, at the fourth, eighth and ninth holes. She also made an impressive save by holing a 15-footer for par on the 14th after finding the fairway bunker and taking two blows to reach the green.
“The front nine is easier and I made three of my four birdies on the par-5s. On the back nine, the pin positions are more difficult and the holes are longer,” she said, adding that her putting was the best part of her game.
Van Dam used her prodigious length off the tee to full effect in a six-under 66, which equalled her lowest round in two seasons on the Ladies European Tour.
“The course is more open and for me, with my driving, it’s great,” said the 21-year-old from Arnhem, who has won twice on the LET Access Series and whose best finish on the LET is 12th at the 2015 Helsingborg Open. “I hit a lot of drivers and with this heat, I’m hitting it really far so on some holes I’m only 40 or 50 metres in front of the green and I’ve been taking advantage of that the last two days.”
Thailand’s Pannarat Thanapolboonyaras is a stroke further back in third place, with Finland’s Elina Nummenpaa, Moroccan Maha Haddioui and Thailand’s Ajira Nualraksa in joint fourth on six-under.
Haddioui (68) felt at home on the greens and said: “I think it’s a pretty straightforward and fair course. If you hit a good shot then you’re pretty sure to be in a good position. The grass is similar to what I’m used to in Morocco but also when I used to be in Florida. It’s the same type of grass; same type of course.”
South Korean Hyeon Seo Kang is seventh on five-under-par, with six players sharing eighth: Vikki Laing, Valentine Derrey, Sophie Walker, Ye Seul Lee, Hsin Ning Yeh and the 2014 champion Ssu-Chia Cheng. The defending champion, Hye In Yeom, is 11 shots from the lead in a share of 36th place heading into the weekend.