Shi bidding to be Beijing's leading lady again

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Defending champion Shi Yuting will lead China's charge at Le Coq Sportif Beijing Ladies Classic, which tees off on Thursday at Beijing's Orient Pearl Country Club.

With total prize money of 800,000 yuan ($120,000), the sixth stop on the China LPGA Tour features a field of 115 entrants from 13 countries and regions.

Shi and 2016 champion Li Jiayun will be joined by the likes of Zhang Jienalin and Luo Ying, who have both put up some impressive numbers this season.

"I'm happy to come back here with all the support of my family and friends," said Shi. "I want to enjoy it more ... but defending my title is the main goal."

That won't be an easy task as foreign players have claimed the first five tour titles this season.

"I'm quite familiar with this course, but still there have been some changes," said Li.

"For example, the number and shape of the trees has changed, which will influence shot accuracy.

"We will have to be more aggressive ... and still face the pressure of the international golfers."

The opportunity to play against many of the world's best is a big boost for the homegrown golfers, who are anxious to follow in the footsteps of Feng Shanshan, who has won nine LPGA Tour events and vaulted to world No 1 last November.

"Li Jiayun won the championship in 2016 and Shi Yuting claimed the title in 2017, and we are very happy that more young Chinese ladies are coming to participate in the tournament," said China Golf Association (CGA) secretary-general Pang Zheng.

"I really want to thank Le Coq Sportif for supporting the tournament and providing the domestic players with a prestigious platform to improve themselves. They are the future of China's golf."

The club has been hosting the annual women's golf extravaganza since 2008. In 2016, the international sports brand Le Coq Sportif joined the party by becoming the title sponsor.

"As a hardcore fan of the sport, I'm very glad to see that women's golf has developed so dramatically here in recent years ... and the China LPGA Tour helped a lot," said Wang Ke, managing director of Ningbo Le Coq Sportif.

"Through cooperation with the China LPGA Tour, we want to provide fans with more high-quality tournaments and help facilitate the game's development in China. More importantly, we want to help nurture more talent."

Getting the course in shape was another challenge.

"Last winter was too cold and the lack of snow and rain made the situation even worse," said Zhang Lijuan, general manager of the club.

"The snow we had in April was no doubt another hit. To guarantee the quality of the golf course was a huge challenge for us. For the past 20 days all of our staff has been working hard to make sure the course is in the best condition possible."

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