Zhangjiagang Island, China: Teenage amateur Liu Wenbo has made history with her victory in the Zhangjiagang Shuangshan Challenge.
With a par on the first hole of a sudden-death play-off at Shuangshan Golf Course in Jiangsu Province, the 16-year-old Liu defeated Thai Kanyalak Preedasuttijit to write her name into the record books as the youngest winner on the China LPGA Tour.
The Beijing native closed with a two-under-par 70 to finish level with Kanyalak on even-par 216 over the layout sculpted by Nelson & Haworth Golf Course Architects, an Associate Member of the Asian Golf Industry Federation.
China’s Li Jiayun (71) was equal third at the RMB500,000 event, tied with Chinese Taipei’s Chen Yu-ju (69) and Thai Saranporn Langkulgasettrin (71). Overnight co-leader Kuo Ai-chen (75) of Chinese Taipei ended joint sixth with Thai Parinda Phokan (74).
Liu, aged 16 years, two months and 11 days, is the fourth amateur to win on Tour. She bettered the previous record for youngest winner set by Wang Ziyi who captured the 2014 Xiamen Challenge when aged 16 years, five months and two days.
“An unexpected win. My goal was to win this year, but I didn’t think it would happen so quickly. I am really happy now,” she said.
Liu started the day three shots off the lead but got off to a fast start with birdies on the first two holes to get to even-par. After a bogey at the fourth and a double-bogey seven at the fifth she rebounded with a birdie-four at the long seventh to make the turn at two-over. The China National Team member then picked up her game with birdies at 10, 13 and 16 before a three-putt bogey-five at 17.
“At the last hole, I watched the leaderboard for the first time and saw Kanyalak was one-under. I missed a 12-foot birdie putt and was a little bit frustrated because I felt I lost a great chance,” said Liu.
In the play-off at the 18th hole, Liu missed the green to the left but got up-and-down for par. Kanyalak’s approach went to the right side of the green but her chip went five feet past the hole and she then two-putted.
“I didn’t feel nervous until the final putt in the play-off because I knew this might be the most important par so far for my life,” said Liu. “My next event is the Queen Sirikit Cup (May 7-13), which is being played on this golf course, so hopefully I can win again.”
Rookie pro Kanyalak went into the day tied for the lead with Kuo at even-par but got off to a rough start with a bogey-five at the first hole. She then rebounded for a birdie three at the third hole before dropping another shot at the fifth.
The 19-year-old Chonburi native looked as if her first pro win was secured when she reeled off three consecutive birdies starting from the seventh hole to get to three-under, only to falter with three bogeys on the back nine, including back-to-back at 15 and 16.
“I put pressure on myself on those holes. I was trying not to shoot over par there. I’m not a winner but I’m okay. I did my best,” said Kanyalak who received the RMB75,000 first-place prize money. “Liu is a good player and I congratulate her on winning the tournament.”