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Zhang enjoys a happy Hainan birthday

China Daily | Updated: 2023-12-05 09:31
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Michelle Zhang Yunxuan poses with the trophy after winning the CGA Ladies Championship at Mission Hills Resort Haikou on Sunday. CHINA DAILY

Rookie storms to emphatic six-shot victory to earn maiden China LPGA Tour title just days after turning 19

Rookie pro Michelle Zhang Yunxuan gave herself a belated birthday present by capturing the CGA Ladies Championship on Hainan Island for her maiden win.

Playing on the Sandbelt Trails course at Mission Hills Resort Haikou, the US-based Chinese, who celebrated her 19th birthday last Tuesday, closed with 4-under 68 for a 54-hole score of 11-under 205, enough for a six-stroke win at the China LPGA Tour event. The victory was worth 120,000 yuan ($17,000).

Zhang is the first player to win on her CLPGA Tour debut since Yang Taoli 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 as a 13-year-old. "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 mainland veteran Pan Yanhong (67). Teenage Chinese 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 in Dallas before turning pro, started the day with a two-stroke lead and didn't pick up a shot until making birdie at the seventh where her approach shot came to rest three feet (almost a meter) 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 (114 meters) out. Zhang closed out her round with birdies at the 16th hole and the par-5 last.

Michelle Zhang Yunxuan, a Chinese Dallas-based rookie, who turned 19 last Tuesday, triumphed by six shots with an 11-under total of 205. CHINA DAILY

"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 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 Dec 12 in Xiamen, 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 in Thailand, 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 hole.

"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."

Pan, a 40-year-old with six CLPGA Tour titles, said she had no expectations going into the day after starting six strokes back. She credited hitting the range and working on her iron play for her round that included six birdies, including three straight from the 13th hole, and a lone bogey.

"It's a nice score whatever finish I had at the end of the day," said the former weightlifter.

"I am a relatively older player on the tour. I try my best to keep playing no matter what. Tan Lingling's victory (at last month's Zhangjiagang Shuangshan Challenge) was inspiring. I was in the same group with her. But you know, I love this game. I enjoy myself at these tournaments."

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 it. Cao missed her par putt after hitting into the water."

CGA Ladies Championship final-round scores:

(players are from the Chinese mainland unless stated; *denotes amateur)

205 — Zhang Yunxuan 69-68-68

211 — Chen Yu-ju (TPE) 69-70-72

212 — Pan Yanhong 70-75-67

215 — Saraporn Chamchoi (THA)71-73-71, Wannasiri Sirisampant (THA) 75-69-71,

Ren Yijia* 71-72-72, Cao Xinyu*70-72-73

216 — Aretha Pan (MAS) 73-73-70, Wanchana Poruangrong (THA)72-75-69,

Nemittra Juntanaket (THA) 75-71-70, Yang Manlixiang 73-72-71,

Chang Ya-chi (TPE) 72-73-71, Lin Qianhui 73-71-72, Huang Ching (TPE) 69-71-76

217 — Ploychompoo Wilairungrueng (THA) 73-74-70, Wu Tianqi*75-73-69,

Prima Thammaraks (THA) 72-72-73, Zhang Yahui* 75-69-73, Sui Xiang 69-72-76

218 — Zhao Zhimeng 77-70-71, Lu Li 74-72-72, Pang Runzhi 74-73-71, Ni Zixin* 74-67-77

Wan Yuanyuan 70-75-69, Onkanok Soisuwan (THA) 70-69-79

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