Lin Tzu-Chi of Chinese Taipei emerged from a crowded leader board to take a two stroke lead after the first round of the Sanya Ladies Open in Hainan.
The 24-year-old China LPGA Tour player from Taichung had a late birdie surge to seal a six under par 66 and move out of a pack of nine players previously tied for the lead on four under par.
Her compatriot Babe Liu, Frenchwoman Gwladys Nocera, Denmark’s Malene Jorgensen, Kusuma Meechai of Thailand, Australian Rebecca Artis and Chinese teenagers Xi Yu Lin and Ziyi Wang all carded 68s and looked set to be part of one of the largest groups to be tied for the lead after a round on the Ladies European Tour, until Lin birdied her last two holes to steal the advantage.
Ladies European Tour players Gwladys Nocera, Rebecca Artis and Malene Jorgensen all had four birdies in their bogey-free rounds.
Frenchwoman Nocera has fond memories from China having claimed her 12th career title at last year’s Suzhou Taihu Open. The LET’s current No.4 said: “I didn’t make any mistakes and when I had bad shots they were there, so I just played consistent the whole day and made some good putts.”
Denmark’s Jorgensen enjoyed playing in the 29C heat and was steady with two birdies on the front nine and two on the back. She said: “I hit my driver really well and I hit the approach shots close so it was really easy. I had a five metre birdie putt on the first hole but the other birdie putts were shorter so it was easy. It was really hot though. It was nice on the back nine when the sun was gone but I can’t complain, coming from 10 degrees in Denmark.”
For Artis, the 2013 Helsinborg Open champion from Australia who has been combining competition on the US Symetra Tour with the LET in 2014, this was a superb return to action and she said: “I didn’t play unbelievable out there, I just played with what I had and played pretty solid golf. It’s nice to get that first round under your belt when you haven’t played for five or so weeks. I just managed to keep the ball in play and played my way around the golf course. I had pretty good course management and tried to hit the greens in the right spots to get uphill putts and some good chances.”
The talented and hungry Chinese pair, Lin Xi Yu, 18, and Wang Xi Yi, 16, will now be under the spotlight, as both home hopes have won on the China LPGA Tour this year. In August, Wang surpassed Li’s record from the previous year when she won the Xiamen Challenge at Orient Golf Club aged 16 years and five months. The Beijing amateur, who has verbally committed to Stanford University in 2016, was pleased with her start and said: “The pitching was good and I made five or six birdies on the par fours, so that’s why I had a great round.”
Meanwhile Ladies European Tour member Lin, from Guangzhou, already has four top-10 finishes in the Sanya Ladies Open since finishing ninth as a 14-year-old amateur in 2010. After completing a solid rookie season on the US LPGA Tour, she won the CLPGA’s Sanya’s Hills Classic at nearby Dragon Valley Golf Club last week. She said: “I didn’t have any bogeys but I still missed a couple of chances so I’m satisfied with the score but I think it could have been lower.”
The CLPGA’s No.2 ranked player, Babe Liu, 21, from Chinese Taipei, is also in the hunt after two victories already this season at the Golden Mountain Challenge and Zhuhai Classic. The second year professional opened with five birdies in her first six holes from the 10th and stalled with a bogey on 17 but was level for the front nine. She said: “My second shots were really good and close to the pin so it wasn’t a problem to make birdies.”
Thailand’s Kusuma Meechai joined the leaders on four under par later in the day with six birdies and two bogeys on her card. The 19-year-old from Prachinburi said: “I felt good today and my long game and putting were good so it made the course easy for me. We didn’t have a strong breeze on the difficult holes, so it wasn’t affecting me that much.”
Australian Nikki Campbell, England’s Liz Young and Thailand’s Titiya Plucksataporn are a shot further behind in tied ninth place on three-under-par.
The field of 120 players will be cut to 60 professionals and ties after the second round, with the final 18 holes set for Sunday.
Collated scores after round 1:
66 – Tzu Chi Lin (TPE)
68 – Babe Liu (TPE) , Gwladys Nocera (FRA) , Xi Yu Lin (CHN) , Malene Jorgensen (DEN) , Kusuma Meechai (THA) , Ziyi Wang (CHN) , Rebecca Artis (AUS)
69 – Nikki Campbell (AUS) , Liz Young (ENG) , Titiya Plucksataporn (THA)
70 – Pavarisa Yoktuan (THA) , Yu Yang Zhang (CHN) , Chloe Leurquin (BEL) , Jienalin Zhang (CHN) , Numa Gulyanamitta (THA) , Ziqi Ye (CHN) , Tiffany Tavee (USA) , Charley Hull (ENG) , Eleanor Givens (ENG) , Marion Ricordeau (FRA) , Yu Ting Shi (CHN) , Hsuan-Ping Chang (TPE) , Joanna Klatten (FRA)
71 – Sophie Giquel-Bettan (FRA) , Huei Ju Shih (TPE) , Pei-Yun Chien (TPE) , Nikki Garrett (AUS) , Klara Spilkova (CZE) , Stacy Lee Bregman (RSA) , Bree Arthur (AUS) , Saaniya Sharma (IND) , Wichanee Meechai (THA)
72 – Stephanie Na (AUS) , Stacey Keating (AUS) , Camilla Lennarth (SWE) , Ashleigh Simon (RSA) , Fabienne In-albon (SUI) , Tanaporn Kongkiatkrai (THA) , Holly Aitchison (ENG) , Hannah Burke (ENG) , Maria Hernandez (ESP) , Wannasiri Sirisampant (THA) , Sarah Kemp (AUS) , Qi Tian (CHN) , Cassandra Kirkland (FRA) , Felicity Johnson (ENG) , Caroline Afonso (FRA) , Zhang Wei Wei (CHN) , Valentine Derrey (FRA) , Lydia Hall (WAL) , Ai-Chen Kuo (TPE) , Pan Pan Yan (CHN) , Punpaka Phuntumabamrung (THA)
73 – Li Qing Chen (CHN) , Florentyna Parker (ENG) , Sherman Santhiwiwatthanaphong (THA) , Ajira Nualraksa (THA) , Connie Chen (RSA) , Ainil Bakar (MYS) , Monique Smit (RSA) , Noora Tamminen (FIN) , Nontaya Srisawang (THA) , Ling Ling Tan (CHN) , Ann-Kathrin Lindner (GER) , Yu-Ling Hsieh (TPE) , Kylie Walker (SCO)
74 – Yan Hong Pan (CHN) , Jia Yun Li (CHN) , Pamela Pretswell (SCO) , Leigh Whittaker (GER) , Smriti Mehra (IND) , Hong Tian (CHN) , Thi Nhung Tang (VNM) , Grace Lee (KOR) , Yue Xia Lu (CHN) , Georgina Simpson (ENG) , Sahra Hassan (WAL) , Patricia Sanz Barrio (ESP) , Becky Brewerton (WAL) , Melissa Reid (ENG) , Vikki Laing (SCO) , Becky Morgan (WAL) , Beth Allen (USA) , Minea Blomqvist (FIN)
75 – Victoria Lovelady (BRA) , Saraporn Chamchoi (THA) , Kanphanitnan Muangkhumsakul (THA) , Alison Whitaker (AUS) , Mookharin Ladgratok (THA) , Maha Haddioui (MAR) , Hsin Ning Yeh (TPE) , Li Ying Ye (CHN) , Anais Maggetti (SUI) , Trish Johnson (ENG) , Caroline Martens (NOR) , Neha Tripathi (IND)
76 – Whitney Hillier (AUS) , Tiranan Yoopan (THA) , Aunchisa Utama (THA) , Narisara Kerdrit (THA) , Pimpadsorn Sangkagaro (THA) , Sally Watson (SCO) , Janya Morrakotphan (THA) , Pennapa Pulsawath (THA) , Vani Kapoor (IND) , Cai Zhu Guo (CHN) , Louise Larsson (SWE)
77 – Rungthiwa Pangjan (THA) , Mayumi Chinzei (JPN) , Xin Wang (CHN) , Jade Schaeffer (FRA) , Rebecca Codd (IRL)
78 – Nimmita Juntanaket (THA)
79 – Ashley Ona (AUS) , Jaruporn Palakawong Na Ayutthaya (THA) , Mireia Prat (ESP)
80 – Alexandra Vilatte (FRA) , Ankita Tiwana (IND)
83 – Nanthikarn Rakasachat (THA)