Zhang makes history with Hangzhou win

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China's Zhang Weiwei poses with the trophy after winning the Hangzhou International Championship at Fuchun Resort in the Zhejiang Province capital on Sunday.

Zhang Weiwei became the first Chinese to win three times in one China LPGA Tour season on Sunday when the Hubei native cruised to a seven-shot victory at the weather-plagued Hangzhou International Championship in Zhejiang Province.

The 22-year-old started the day at Fuchun Resort by finishing the final eight holes of her rain-delayed third round, producing a late birdie and an eagle three en route to a 68. With a four-shot lead going into the final round in wet conditions she closed with 67 for the win.

Zhang received 75,000 yuan (US$10,480) for her winning score of 14-under 270 to solidify her lead atop the CLPGA Tour Order of Merit. Xiamen native Liu Yan (66) was a distant second, while teenager Du Mohan (70) was third at 10 shots back.

In the 1.5-million yuan tournament that also featured the men of the China Tour, Chao Haiming hung on to claim his second pro win and the 126,000-yuan first prize. The Jiangsu native carded a 70 to beat Thailand's Suteepat Prateeptienchai (66) by one stroke with a 6-under 274 score.

The Thai pairing of Prima Thammaraks (70) and Suteepat won the team award featuring a woman and man player from the same country. They split the 100,000-yuan first prize.

In winning three times this season on the CLPGA Tour, Zhang joins Thais Porani Chutichai (2010) and Saranporn Langkulgasettrin (2017) as the only players to accomplish the feat. On Sunday, her final round featured five birdies and a lone bogey for her fourth career title. She also set a new mark for the largest winning margin for a 72-hole event.

"Going into this year, one of my goals was three wins. I'm excited to make it. There are some events to play. I hope to continue my good form and become the first to win four times on the Tour," said Zhang, who also won in Wuhan and Beijing this season.

"With such bad weather nearly every day and waking up at 4am in the morning, I am really happy that I can have 14-under in a real tough event. In the pre-event news conference I predicted that the winning score will be 14-under. On the back nine, I remembered that. I tried to make two more birdies. Obviously, I did a great job."

Liu, who has been struggling with her swing of late, had nothing but praise for playing partner Zhang. Her round today included four birdies and three bogeys.

"She (Zhang) played pretty good and had a spectacular score in such tough conditions. At the end of day I wasn't able to catch up with her. I just played my game and had as low a score as possible. Runner-up is good for my confidence."

Prima, the Iowa State alumni who finished seventh among the women, said there was a lot of pressure on her and partner Suteepat given that they were the only Thai pairing in the team competition.

"But honestly I didn't do much. He (Suteepat) was on fire today and played amazing," said Prima, winner of the 2017 Xiamen Orient Masters. "Every time I made a bogey he made some birdies so it's literally all him. Given it's the first year and we get to win for our country being the only (Thai) team it's really cool."

Chao, who got his first win since 2015, became the second Chinese mainlander to win on the China pro circuit this year. The veteran said the win made up for years of frustration.

"When I won my first title, it was unexpected. After that, I expected too much from myself. When I couldn't achieve my goal I felt frustrated and disappointed. I lost confidence and doubted myself. I feel great now," he said.

Yin Ruoning (71) was the top amateur as the teenager finish in 11th at 20 shots back.

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