Chinese golfers chase Thai champion in Xiamen Orient Masters
The China LPGA Tour swings back into action on Thursday as Prima Thammaraks is back in South China's coastal city Xiamen to defend her Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Orient Masters title against a strong field of top players from around the region.
Prima, a 26-year-old Thai who cruised to a four-shot win last year for her maiden pro title, will face an uphill battle to repeat that feat as the 120-player field features a host of past CLPGA Tour tournament winners.
Among those in the field for the 800,000 yuan (116,000 US dollars) tournament is Shi Yuting, the rising Chinese star who successfully defended her Le Coq Sportif Beijing Ladies Classic crown in May, and Li Jiayun, a two-time winner on the Tour who was fifth at the EFG Hong Kong Ladies Open this year.
Others teeing off at Orient Xiamen Golf and Country Club include Li Xiya, who finished third at the Zhuhai Heritage in May, Zhang Jienalin, who finished fourth at the CTBC Ladies Classic in March, and veteran Ye Liying who is making her first start of the season. One player who will undoubtedly draw a lot of interest this week is Liu Wenbo.
After an outstanding amateur career, capped off by winning the individual silver medal and leading China to the team bronze at the Asian Games in August, the Beijing teenager Liu is making her pro debut. The 17-year-old has already experienced success at the pro level in winning the 2017 Sun Car Zhangjiagang Shuangshan Classic as an amateur - becoming the youngest player ever to win on the CLPGA Tour.
This year she has continued her strong play in finishing runner-up in the title defense of her Sun Car crown, followed by a third place finish at the Le Coq Sportif Beijing Ladies Classic. "If the full mark is 100, I got an 85 for my amateur career. I did have some regrets before I turned pro but I think I will learn from that and it will make me stronger," said Liu on Wednesday. "This is my first pro tournament after the Asian Games. I haven't thought too much about my pro career but I will try my best."
Another player looking to build on the good vibes around her game is Luo Ying. The Guangdong native won her maiden pro title last month when she captured the CLPGA Tour Tieling Longshan Golf Challenge.
"I'm excited to be here. Winning the championship at my last event was like a dream come true. It was also my aim for this year to win," said the 25-year-old who is currently 10th on the CLPGA Tour Order of Merit.
"Every tournament is a new start. This week there are 120 players from 12 countries and regions and they all want to win here in Xiamen. I will just focus on each shot and give it my best try. The greens here are quick and a little bit tricky. The weather will be a key element as well."