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Li Claims 2nd Win of China Tour Season
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Li Chao completed a convincing post-to-post victory in the Kunming Leg to win his second trophy of the season on the Omega China Tour.

The 26-year-old, who blew the field apart with a 65 on Saturday, was mobbed by local children wearing traditional ethnic dress after he comfortably defended his nine-shot lead, shooting a one-under par final round 71 at the Kunming Country Golf Club. The 2005 Order of Merit winner finished 11 under par for the tournament to win by seven strokes from Huang Mingjie.

"All I was thinking was just don't make mistakes. I'm just lucky I didn't have any disasters," he said, before revealing that the win was not quite the walk in the park it appeared.

"I was actually quite nervous for the first few holes, but eventually I calmed down. My opponents were playing really good golf, so I just had to avoid any serious errors," he said.

25-year old Huang proved his second place finish at the Shanghai Leg earlier this month was no fluke, by carding a fault-free 69, which included a crowd-pleasing 25-foot birdie on the final hole. His four-under score of 284 also gave him a semblance of revenge over Zhang Lianwei for his play-off defeat in China¡¯s second city.

"I'm particularly happy because no-one was fighting to be champion anymore, they all wanted second place, but I managed to take it. It also proves that my result in Shanghai was no accident," he said.

"I've got second place twice, but now I really want to win. Maybe the next leg! Li Chao was playing really well so this time it was just a case of aiming for second place."

Zhang Lianwei finally found the key to unlock the serpentine mountain course's secrets, getting into red numbers for the first time this week thanks to a bogey-free 68, which put him two under for the four rounds.

"The young players have made great strides," said the 41-year-old trailblazer for Chinese golf.

"As the first generation of golfers, both Cheng Jun and I are really happy about that."

The Kunming event was something of a triumph for China's twenty-somethings. As well as Li and Huang, several more of what might be described as the forgotten generation featured, with 29-year-old Liao Guiming recovered from a double-bogey on the first to shoot six birdies to finish in fourth on even par. Two shots behind him was, 28-year-old Huang Yonghuan, while 25-year-old Shang Lei, 27-year-old Yuan Hao and 25-year-old national amateur team member Wu Kangchun shared sixth place with the relatively elderly Xiao Zhijin.

Encouragingly, the top five all finished under par on their fourth trip round the course, a far cry from Li Chao's equally easy victory just over a year ago in the tour's inaugural event.

"The ones who can play well in the final round, those are the real players," declared Li Yong, the Deputy General Secretary of the China Golf Association. Significantly, as a Chinese government official, he was smiling broadly.

( September 25, 2006)

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