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Impeccable Angelina putts to perfection

China Daily | Updated: 2023-12-15 09:52
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Rookie becomes first player to win on CLPGA Tour with bogey-free total after thrilling final-round duel in Xiamen

Angelina Ye Lei poses with the Orient Women's China Open winner's trophy on Thursday.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Angelina Ye Lei captured her first title as a professional in impressive fashion on Thursday when she out-dueled Chinese amateur Wang Zixuan down the stretch to win the Orient Women's China Open by two strokes in Fujian province.

With the 22-year-old rookie pro holding a one-stroke lead over Beijing teenager Wang going into the final round at Orient (Xiamen) Golf and Country Club, Ye closed with a five-under 67 to Wang's 68 to put her name on the trophy at the 13th national championship.

The win was worth 75,000 yuan (around $10,000) to Ye who finished with a 54-hole score of 14-under 202. She also earned six world ranking points for her victory at the China LPGA Tour's flagship event.

"The most difficult putt was the last putt from three feet (almost a meter). I knew that I had a two-shot lead, but I really wanted to end the event without any bogey. To my great relief, I made it perfect and earned my maiden victory," said Shanghai native Ye after becoming the first player in CLPGA Tour history to win a tournament without dropping a shot.

"I have been a pro for five months. I just played six or seven events as a pro. I must say that this win is quick. But my CLPGA debut was 10 years ago when I was 12 years old. In that case, it's also a long time."

China's Michelle Zhang Yunxuan closed with a 69 to finish three shots back in third, one shot ahead of fellow rookie pro Fiona Xu (67) of New Zealand. Thai veteran Onkanok Soisuwan (66) was fifth, five strokes off the pace.

In their final-round duel, Wang struck first when she sank a six-foot downhill putt at the second hole for birdie to draw even. At the next hole, Ye answered with a birdie to go one shot ahead. Wang then birdied the par-five fifth before both players picked up a shot on the seventh to make the turn deadlocked at 11-under.

Angelina Ye Lei is doused in water by her fellow competitors after winning the Orient Women's China Open in Xiamen, Fujian province, on Thursday. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The back nine would prove the difference as Stanford graduate Ye picked up consecutive birdies starting from the par-three 12th hole before making a birdie four at the 504-yard (461-meter) 17th. Wang could only pick up one stroke on the back nine, a birdie four at the 478-yard 13th.

"My long game was steady on the front nine which provided plenty of birdie chances. I had some lip-outs where I lost patience. I made an 18-foot birdie putt at the 12th hole, which changed my momentum a lot," said Ye.

Wang, who battled illness throughout the tournament, said she was thrilled to have her best finish against a pro field, despite missing a birdie putt on the 17th hole and making an errant drive at the last.

"The 17th hole was a gaffe. I missed a five-foot birdie chance and knew that I couldn't catch up with her (Ye)," said the teenager, who sits at No 224 in the world amateur rankings.

"I am still under the weather. I had a high fever in the morning. I had cold symptoms like a stuffy nose and a runny nose over the back nine. I also had a pain in my knee. But I am thrilled to have my best finish against the best professional players. At this stage, I'm just trying to learn from them. I gained confidence from it and believe that I will be in the mix next year."

Zhang, who won the CGA Ladies Championship earlier this month, lamented a missed opportunity to pick up her second straight title. Her round included five birdies and two bogeys while playing in the final group.

"The final round was not what I wanted. My iron play was the best of the week, but I missed plenty of putts, especially on the front nine. I missed a six-footer at the third hole, and a three-footer at the sixth hole," said the Texas-based 19-year-old. "But I felt my game was at a higher level since I came back to China. I had six rounds in the 60s (at two tournaments), which was pleasing."

Thailand's Sherman Santiwiwatthanaphong (71) finished equal 27th, just enough to keep Zeng Liqi (68) at bay, to claim the China LPGA Tour Order of Merit title. The money-list victory comes with rights to play events next year on the LPGA of Korea Tour.

"It's really been a successful year for me after everything I have been through before coming to the CLPGA. I think I got a lot more confidence in myself," said the 27-year-old, who earned 278,472 yuan in prize money from nine events, 31,093 yuan more than Zeng.

Now the Thai is hoping to take her talents to new testing grounds.

"I like to go to a lot of places with my golf," she said. "Next year I think I will go to the Australia tour for the first two months and then come back to the CLPGA."

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