Chinese teenager Liu leads at Beijing Ladies Classic

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China's top amateur Liu Wenbo roared to the top of the leaderboard at the Le Coq Sportif Beijing Ladies Classic on Friday as the teenager fired a six-under 66 for a one stroke lead.

The Beijing native was seven-under 137 through 36 holes at the 800,000 yuan RMB (125,392 U.S. dollars) China LPGA Tour event.

India's Sharmila Nicollet was alone in second place after carding a two-under-par 70 over the Beijing Orient Pearl Golf Club layout. Defending champion Shi Yuting of China moved into contention with a six-under 66 to sit two shots back, tied with compatriot Sui Xiang (68).

Chinese amateur Yin Xiaowen (72), the overnight co-leader, was equal fifth with Kiwi Munchen Keh (70), Malaysian Dianne Luke (71) and Thai Wannasiri Sirisampant (71) at three shots off the pace.

Playing in front of her home crowd proved just the tonic for Liu as the 17-year-old, who is No. 27 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, carded seven birdies and a lone bogey over the course in the hunt for her second CLPGA Tour win.

"Compared to some other players, I have a longer driving distance (average 278.9 yards). Because of that I made lots of birdie chances within four yards," said the national team standout who was runner-up at the Sun Car Zhangjiagang Shuangshan Classic last month, a tournament she won in 2017 against a pro field in Jiangsu province.

"Actually I prefer to play in the last second or third group in the final round. If so, I will be more aggressive. But in the champion group it gives people more pressure to want to keep that position and they are afraid to make mistakes. Tomorrow I will try not to be influenced by these external factors and keep calm."

Nicollet, one of the five overnight co-leaders, held steady in the search for her maiden CLPGA Tour win with a round that included three birdies and a bogey five at the 361-yard 10th hole.

"Today is a tough day, the pins are challenging. You have to be a little smart to place the ball on the proper side of the green," said the Bangalore native. "Tomorrow I will be more aggressive in my approaches. If I win tomorrow it will probably be my first win in Asia. I want to keep calm and stick to the plan. I will stick to the goal in maintaining under par."

Shi, who won last year's tournament by two strokes for her second CLPGA Tour win, demonstrated that her game could be turning around after losing her playing card in Japan last year in reeling off three straight birdies to finish. Her round today included seven birdies and a lone bogey.

At the 380-yard 16th hole, the Beijinger landed her approach 16 yards from the pin and successfully converted the putt to begin her late birdie run.

"I was really happy about that hard-won birdie. That made me excited and I made two more birdies after that," said Shi, a two-time winner on the CLPGA Tour.

"I haven't played in any events for three weeks before this. I mainly trained on my fitness and strength. Today I entered my state faster and my average driving distance has reached 260 yards over a period of time. I am glad to see that the training paid off. Tomorrow I will be aggressive like today and try to defend."

Wanchana Poruangrong (74), China amateur Ji Yifan (75) and compatriot Li Xiya (77), the other three overnight co-leaders, fell out of contention despite the ideal conditions where there was little wind.

Beijing Orient Pearl Country Club is a 6,417-yard, par-72 layout designed by TK Pen.

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