Hainan, China: Thai teenager Benyapa Niphatsophon completed a wire-to-wire victory at the China LPGA Tour Qualfiying Tournament.
The talented 19-year-old closed with a sparkling 68 to post an eight-stroke win in the 74-player field over the Tom Weiskopf-designed Dunes’ West Course on Hainan Island.
Benyapa had a 54-hole total of 18-under 198. Her compatriot Kanyalak Preedasuttijit (71) was a distant second, while South Korean Hwang Ye-nah (68) was third, a shot further back.
Li Xiya (75) was the top Chinese in equal seventh in the tournament where the top-30 players received their full playing card for the 2017 China LPGA Tour season. In addition, the top-10 Chinese players who made the cut but were not in the top 30 will be placed in a lower category.
The 31st to 40th place finishers received conditional membership for the 2017 season that features about 15 events and offers Rolex World Ranking points.
Benyapa, who played on the LPGA Tour last year as a rookie pro but lost her card, started the day with a five-shot lead and cruised through a round that featured seven birdies and three bogeys while playing in the lead group with Kanyalak and Saranporn Langkulgasettrin (79).
“I just played my game. It was very windy for everyone. I just played shot-by-shot,” said the Bangkok native.
With her father being of Chinese heritage and her card secured for this season, Benyapa said she looked forward to playing as many events in China as possible as she enjoyed travelling.
“I have tried to do my best on every Tour. I’m going back to the US to play the Symetra Tour, but I will come back and play some events that I find interesting in China. I will have to look at my schedule to make it match.”
The Qualifying Tournament also featured players from America, Australia, New Zealand, Cook Islands, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Great Britain, Indonesia, South Africa and Chinese Taipei.