Shanghai, China: Overcoming bouts of anxiety and pangs of self-doubt, Danielle Kang emerged triumphant in the inaugural US$2.1 million Buick LPGA Shanghai.
One shot off the pace in joint third overnight, the San Francisco native finished strongly to post a closing three-under-par 69 at Shanghai Qizhong Garden Golf Club.
That gave her a winning 72-hole total of 13-under 275 and a first-place cheque for US$315,000.
Given her recent anxiety issues while standing over the ball, it was an especially poignant success for Kang, who turned 26 yesterday.
“I’ve been through so much of a mental struggle that it’s been emotionally draining all year. I’ve had some anxiety problems for months and months,” admitted Kang, whose only previous LPGA Tour win was a Major, the 2017 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
“I was watching the leaderboard today and I knew that there were still a lot of long hitters behind me. I knew that I had to trust my short game. I just kept on chipping away at it and made birdies.”
Liu Wenbo nearly put together a fairytale finish with the Chinese teenager grabbing a share of the lead on the strength of four birdies over the first nine holes. It wasn’t to be, however, as the 17-year-old Beijinger signed off with a 68 to finish equal second alongside New Zealander Lydia Ko (66), Thai Ariya Jutanugarn (71), Korean Kim Sei-young (72) and Americans Annie Park (67), Marina Alex (67) and Brittany Altomare (71).
Liu, who turned pro last month after winning the individual silver medal at the Asian Games in Jakarta where she led China to the team bronze, described her performance against the world’s best players as a ‘confidence booster’. Next year she plans to go to US LPGA Tour qualifying school in an attempt to win full playing rights.
“Today I was very consistent. I played very well on the front nine,” said Liu, daughter of former national team volleyball player Cui Yongmei. “The iron play and the putting were very good but on the back nine my putting was no good. I missed so many short birdie putts.”
Chinese players made a strong showing at the tournament that was co-sanctioned with the China LPGA Tour with Liu Yu (71) ending equal ninth on 278.
Meanwhile, Feng Shanshan closed with even-par 72 to finish joint 20th. The China number one admitted she was watching the leaderboard during her round, following the progress of the young Chinese players in contention.
“I was paying attention to the leaderboard and I saw the Chinese flags on them,” said Feng, currently the world number nine. “I’m really excited and I am really cheering for them because when I am not playing well we still have Chinese flags on the leaderboard. That’s very important because we are playing the LPGA Tour in China.”
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