China's Shi two shots clear of pack in Xiamen

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Shi Yuting roared to the top of the Xiamen International Ladies Open leader board on Thursday as the Chinese teenager carded a seven-under 65 to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the 300,000-euro tournament in Fujian province.

Thailand's Ploychompoo Wirairingrueng and Finland's Elina Nummenpaa were equal second after rounds of 67, one stroke ahead of China' s Li Jiayun and Thai Pannarat Thanapolboonyaras in the co-sponsored event between the China LPGA Tour and Ladies European Tour at Orient (Xiamen) Golf and Country Club.

In her bogey-free round that include seven birdies, the 18-year-old Shi said she felt as if she was playing a different course today as the Orient (Xiamen) Golf and Country Club layout was heavily damaged by Typhoon Meranti a month ago when hundreds of trees were blown over.

"Today I played very good on my approach shots. I had many birdie chances within 15 feet and I made half of them. So that's the key for today. The course was different this year as there are far less trees after the storm. The ground was also wet today so the distances feel longer than before," said the Beijing native.

Shi, who recently won the China National Team Championship individual title and will play in the second stage of the Japan LPGA Tour qualifying school next month, said her strategy for the rest of the tournament was just to continue her steady play.

"You know anything can happen the next three days, so I'll just keep playing my own game. It' s a good opportunity as this week I can play with good players from the LET. I just try to learn from them as they are always good players."

Ploychompoo, winner of the Zhangjiagang Shuanshan Challenge in June, put herself into contention with birdies on the last four holes in her bogey-free round.

"My putting was good today and my score justified that. I sank a 30-foot putt on fourth hole," said the 21-year-old Bangkok native. "I wasn't thinking about the score, just thinking about my game. I have played this golf course twice now and I just want to keep making putts."

Nummenpaa expressed her delight with her China debut after a round that included six birdies and a lone bogey.

"Everything was quite solid and I didn't hit my long irons too well, but my short irons and putter felt good. The reading of the greens felt good," said the 33-year-old from Turku.

"The course is really good. It's in surprisingly good condition. The fairways were really wet on Sunday and Monday when I got here, but they' ve been getting better and better all the time and today the greens were much better too. It makes a difference if you are on the fairway or in the rough so I try to keep it in the fairway."

Other notable scores today included 2014 Xiamen Open International winner Cheng Ssu-chia of Chinese Taipei at 69, while US LPGA Tour regular Feng Simin of China carded a 70. Isabelle Boineau of France, currently fourth on the LET order of merit, was a shot further back at 71.

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