Weihai, China: Lee Min-young defied windy conditions with a closing 68 to claim victory at the 500 million won (about US$435,000) Kumho Tire Ladies Open.
It was the 24-year-old South Korean’s fourth career victory. She ended one stroke in front of China’s Feng Shanshan (71) and lavished praise on the Weihai Point & Resort course that was redesigned by Golfplan, a Full Business Member of the Asian Golf Industry Federation.
The fifth-year pro finished on 13-under 203 in the tournament that was co-sanctioned by the China LPGA Tour and the Korea LPGA Tour (KLPGA). The victory was worth 100 million (about US$87,000).
“It’s my first win overseas. I made it at such a beautiful golf course. Every hole here (at Weihai Point) is a great challenge,” said Lee of the layout that is situated along a narrow peninsula on the Yellow Sea.
“You can say it’s terrifying each hole! When I was teeing-off I just tried my best to navigate the winding fairways. I just looked at the mountains and sea and it was inspiring.”
After recognising that an engineering company with no golf construction experience had built the original course, Golfplan was commissioned to redesign the entire layout.
All the fairways were sand capped and all existing pine trees on site were preserved.
“The course now features a wide range of holes with varying strategy and breathtaking beauty. The greens vary from subtle to boldly contoured, placing a premium on the short game,” said a Golfplan spokesperson.
“A stern yet fair test, along with unmatched views, compose an unforgettable playing experience for golfers of all skill levels.”
Lee, who had posted four top-10s on the KLPGA this year, earned her first victory since 2014 on the strength of a strong front nine where she posted four birdies. On the back nine, she played even-par golf with two birdies and two bogeys.
The victory was especially sweet for Lee as it was her first since coming back from an operation for kidney cancer in the winter of 2014. Last year, she posted 11 top-10 finishes on the KLPGA Tour.
“You know, I have found that I am stronger than before. I am better at body management and I have changed my mindset,” she said.
Feng, the world number 12, settled for runners-up spot at the Yantai-area tournament for a second straight year. Starting the day one shot off the lead, the Guangdong native endured an adventurous round that included a double-bogey, two bogeys and five birdies, including on the final two holes to make it close.
“I saw the leaderboard at the 16th hole and that I was three shots behind. I told myself that I needed to make three birdies to catch up with her (Lee). I made two birdies. It is a good finish,” said the 26-year-old who is heading to California to play in next week’s US Women’s Open. “I feel a little disappointed, but she (Lee) played great. Today is her day.”
South Korean Park You-na (68) was third on 207 while world number 10 Jang Ha-na, the overnight leader, limped home with a 77 to finish six shots off the pace in fourth place.
Du Mohan finished as the top amateur in equal 20th place. The 14-year-old Beijinger signed for a final-round 77 and a one-over aggregate of 217.
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