Thais in hunt for first China win of year

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The China LPGA Tour swings into action following its summer break with the first of two tournaments this month, starting Thursday with the RMB600,000 Wuhan Challenge.

With the prize money for this year's tournament increased by RMB100,000, a 30-strong contingent of Thais are in the Hubei capital this week aiming to get the first win for their country in China this year after being shutout in the Tour's first eight legs this year.

Pavarisa Yoktuan goes into the tournament at Orient Wuhan as reigning champion as the 22-year-old Thai recorded a three-shot victory over compatriot Ajira Nualraksa last year for her maiden international win.

This year, Pavarisa has continued her strong form in winning the season-opening 1st Singha-Sat Thai LPGA Championship in January and currently sits second on the Thai LPGA Tour order of merit.

The Nakhon Si Thammarat native said she was looking to revive fond memories of winning in Wuhan this week as she prepares for the second stage of the US LPGA Tour qualifying school next month in Florida.

"I'm feeling better about my irons after I changed my swing a little bit. It has given me more confidence to defend my championship," said Pavarisa on Wednesday following her practice round.

"I have good memories of last year at Wuhan and to hold the trophy again is my aim this week. I hope I can realize it."

Looking to spoil the Thai party is Pan Yanhong. The Hebei native is having her best season as a pro this year with victories in Australia and Beijing and recently played in the US Women's Open in Pennsylvania where she missed the cut in her Major debut.

In Wuhan, however, the 32-year-old felt she had something to prove after finishing equal fifth last year and equal fourth in 2013 when she led the tournament through 36 holes.

"I will try my best to get the opportunity to win this time," said the former powerlifter. She noted the hot weather would be a factor this week as the forecast called for cloudy and hot conditions on Thursday, followed by rain and thunderstorms at the weekend in central China.

"The most unforgettable memory of the Wuhan Challenge is the hot weather and how we deal with it. The hot weather is one of the challenges for the players," said Pan. "The tournament staff has to do many jobs to keep the players cool and prepare some ice, water, drinks, medicine to prevent the heatstroke. It's more like a fight to conquer the hot weather."

Another top Chinese in the field this week is Shi Yuting. The Beijing teenager turned pro last October and continues to search for her first pro win after several near misses and three top-10 results this year.

"The golf course is in good condition, especially the greens are very good," said the 17-year-old who made her second US Women's Open appearance in July.

"I played the Wuhan Challenge four years ago. The biggest impression this course left is that some holes are surrounded by water and some fairways are very narrow. So the strategy is very important to get a good score this week."

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