Zhang dominates in Haikou for maiden pro golf win
Michelle Zhang Yunxuan gave herself a belated birthday present on Sunday when the rookie pro captured the CGA Ladies Championship by a commanding six strokes on south China's Hainan Island for her maiden win.
Playing on Sandbelt Trails, the No. 2 Course at Mission Hills Resort Hainan in Haikou, the US-based Chinese, who celebrated her 19th birthday on Tuesday, closed with 4-under-par 68 for a 54-hole score of 11-under 205 at the China LPGA Tour event. The victory was worth 120,000 yuan (US$16,800).
Zhang is the first player to win her CLPGA Tour debut since Yang Taoli achieved the same feat in 2009.
"I am excited to capture my maiden win in my China LPGA debut. It's a perfect outcome," said the Dallas-based Zhang, a Shenzhen native who moved to the United States with her family at age 13. "I watched the leaderboard all the time. I knew that my partners played very well out of the gate. I felt stressed but didn't panic."
Chen Yu-ju (72) of Chinese Taipei finished runner-up, one stroke ahead of Chinese veteran Pan Yanhong (67). Chinese teenager amateurs Ren Yijia (72) and Cao Xinyu (73) finished equal fourth, tied with Thai pros Saraporn Chamchoi (71) and Wannasiri Sirisampant (71) at 10 shots back.
Zhang, who played a year of college golf at Southern Methodist University before turning pro, started the day with a two-stroke lead and didn't pick up a shot until making birdie at the 372-yard seventh where her approach shot came to rest three feet from the pin.
After three-putting the 11th hole for a bogey, she then made an eagle two at the 13th when her approach shot found the hole from 125 yards out. Zhang closed out her round with birdies on the 16th hole and the par-5 last.
"The 13th hole was the turning point where I had a hole-out eagle. I played solid with my irons in hand but made nothing for a while. I just told myself that I need to hit to a lot closer and made a birdie. I didn't expect that I can hole out from the fairway. I believed that this win is mine after that eagle."
Zhang confirmed she would play in the season-ending Women's China Open starting on December 12 in Xiamen, southeastern Fujian Province."I want another successful finish. After that I would celebrate and not touch my clubs for three days."
Chen, who posted her second straight runner-up after finishing second last month at the Sampo Ladies Open on the TLPGA Tour, lamented a poor start on the front nine where she carded bogeys at the third and fifth holes. She picked up her first stroke of the day at the par-3 13th and then sank a 30-footer for a birdie at the 16th.
"I didn't win, but I felt that I am coming back to my old form, and closer to the trophy," said the 25-year-old, winner of the 2018 CTBC Ladies Classic. "I have one last event to play this year. I will try my best to earn my first win this season."
Ren was the tournament's low amateur. Despite finishing with the same 1-under score as Cao, the 14-year-old Ren received the honor as her final-round score was better.
"It's a pleasant surprise for me. It's my first time to have an under-par score for 54 holes on the tour. I have to say it's a breakthrough," said the Dalian teenager.
"I played against Cao in the same group. The final hole was very fierce competition. I knew I needed a birdie and I did. Cao missed her par putt after hitting into the water."