Chinese eves aim to make golf history

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail SHINE, December 13, 2018
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Liu Wenbo will be among local golfers aiming to become the first Chinese winner of the Women's China Open, which tees off in Xiamen, southeastern Fujian Province, on Thursday.

China's top golf talents will have their eyes on the prize this week as the Women's China Open presented by World Golf Series tees off on Thursday in what will undoubtedly be an exciting conclusion to the China LPGA Tour season.

With no Chinese having won the country's national championship in its 11-year history, this season marks the first time the 2.1-million yuan (US$304,843) tournament won't be co-sanctioned by the LPGA Tour of Korea whose players have dominated the event.

Instead, the 34 Chinese pros and amateurs in southeastern Fujian Province will compete against a field of 108 players from 12 different countries and regions at Orient Xiamen.

Among the notables in the field this week are super rookie Liu Wenbo; Liu Ruixin, winner of the Symetra Tour's Order of Merit; Olympian Lin Xiyu; former US LPGA Tour regular Feng Simin; Sui Xiang, the current No. 4 on the CLPGA Tour money list; and Huang Ching, who captured the Wuhan leg in May for one of her three wins around the region this year.

Following her practice round on Wednesday, 17-year-old Liu Wenbo said that she was looking forward to having a strong finish to her season.

"I have been working on my swing at Mission Hills Shenzhen. I felt that it is my normal level now. I had a practice round yesterday and had plenty of good feelings," said the Beijing native who turned pro in October and immediately made an impact in finishing equal runner-up at the Buick LPGA Shanghai.

"This is my final event of the year. Hopefully I can have a wonderful ending. I will try not to think about my swing change during the competition and just play well. This is a great chance for every Chinese player to make history. Hopefully I can be in the mix down the stretch on Sunday."

Liu Ruixin, who earned her US LPGA Tour card for 2019 after winning three times this year on the feeder Symetra circuit, was another looking to make her mark.

"As a Chinese player, I definitely wish that my compatriots triumph on Sunday. We are friends. If the winner is not me I will cheer for them," said the second-year pro. "A Chinese winner would make all of us proud but golf is hard to predict. There are many good international players out there."

Strong group of Thais

Looking to spoil the Chinese party this week is a strong group of Thais led by US LPGA Tour member Pannarat Thanapolboonyaras and Saranporn Langkulgasettrin, the CLPGA Tour money leader who has won twice this year. Others include English veteran Florentyna Parker, a three-time winner on the Ladies European Tour, as well as Chinese Taipei's Babe Liu and South Korean Lee Solar, both of them past winners on the CLPGA Tour.

In addition to the 315,000-yuan in first-prize money, there is much at stake at this week's tournament. The winner will receive at least six Rolex world ranking points, three times as many as a regular tournament. More importantly, the top three players on the CLPGA Tour Order of Merit will earn a spot in next year's US Women's Open in Charleston. The top 80 players on the money list will receive fully exempt status for the 2019 CLPGA Tour season.

The national championship also marks the introduction of the World Golf Series. Tapping into the period that traditionally has been the golfing offseason, the WGS will be staging a series of professional women's tournament that will attract top talents from all the pro tours.

The WGS's inaugural season will run from December 2019 to February 2020. Players will qualify not through their respective tour membership but by the Rolex world ranking.

With so much to play for this week, Feng Simin, who lost her US LPGA Tour card this year, said she felt it was her responsibility as a Chinese to be here for the Open.

"This is a new chapter of the Woman's China Open. You can say it's a new start," said the 23-year-old Beijing native who was the first amateur to win on the CLPGA Tour in 2012.

"Obviously Chinese players have a greater opportunity to triumph than before. The last thing you want is to miss such a good chance to be the first Chinese winner here."

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