Thailand’s Thidapa Suwannapura shot a five under par 67 in hot and humid conditions at Yalong Bay Golf Club on Friday morning to set the first round target at the Sanya Ladies Open in Hainan, China.
The 22-year-old from Pattaya started her round slowly with a bogey on the par-3 fifth hole where she was short of the green and her chip failed to roll out as expected, but she fired six birdies to climb to the top of the leader board.
After recording a pair of birdies on holes seven and eight, she picked up back to back birdies on 13 and 14, followed by two more consecutive birdies on 17 and 18.
“It was a good day for golf, the weather was great and the wind wasn’t too strong, so there were a few chances to make birdie, but you cannot expect anything from this course because it’s not easy,” said Suwannapura, winner of the 2013 Hero Women’s Indian Open at Delhi Golf Club, who was forced to retire from the tournament a fortnight ago with a persistent back injury.
“I did have some back pain and it went all the way to my feet so if you followed me on the course you would see I kept stretching my back on almost every hole.” However, she added that laser eye surgery at the beginning of the year was helping her to see the greens better.
Another player reading the greens well was Sweden’s Isabella Ramsay, on four under par after recording five birdies and a bogey earlier in the day. She looked relaxed after her round as she sipped the water from a Yalong Bay-grown coconut.
Shortly afterwards, she was caught by Scotland’s Vikki Laing who started at the 10th later in the afternoon and had four straight birdies from the 12th. Laing was the runner-up to Frances Bondad at the 2011 Sanya Ladies Open and is still hunting her first Ladies European Tour victory. However her challenge stalled with bogeys on the 16th and 17th.
A trio of Chinese players ended the morning two shots from the lead on three under par: Cuixia Chen, Ling Ling Tan and Jing Yan, who was in contention at the Xiamen Open last month. Their compatriots Shanshan Feng, the world no.6 and the defending champion Xiyu Lin are in a group on two under par 70.
Feng said: “I would say overall I did okay. Two under is not a super good score but it’s not bad. My problem today was not hitting the balls close to the pins so I didn’t have that many birdie chances, but I still made three, and a bogey on a par five. I still have two more days, so more chances.”
The first round continues in breezy and cloudy conditions with temperatures at 26C, expected to increase to 29C over the weekend.