Xiamen, China: Chinese Taipei’s Lee Min eked out a nerve-tingling one-stroke victory in the Women’s China Open in Fujian Province.
The 23-year-old closed with a five-under 67 at Orient Xiamen to finish the 12th edition of China’s national championship, presented by World Golf Series, on 12-under 276. The victory was worth RMB315,000.
Fujian native Liu Yan sank a 40-foot birdie putt from off the green at the 18th to close with a 68 and finish runner-up. Lin Xiyu, the US LPGA regular from Guangdong, was third one stroke further back after a 69.
Lee, who began the last day with a two-stroke lead, battled playing partners Liu and Lin all day.
At the eighth hole, all three were deadlocked at nine-under. But Lee made birdie at the par-four ninth and never surrendered that advantage.
“I was a little bit nervous, even though I was playing with my friends,” said the Taoyuan native, who played the 2018 season on the US LPGA Tour under conditional status and won last month’s Taiwan Mobile Ladies Open, her last competitive outing.
Lee cited a 20-foot putt to save par at the 165-yard 16th as being key.
Despite the best efforts of Liu and Lin, the victory drought for mainland players in their national championship remains.
In finishing runner-up, Liu moved up to third on the China LPGA Tour Order of Merit.
Saranporn Langkulgasettrin closed with a 69 to finish equal 20th and become the first player to repeat as Money List champion. Along with Lee and fellow-Thai Supamas Sangchan, Saranporn was rewarded with a starting spot in next year’s US Women’s Open.
“The result is great but I felt that I left something out there,” said Liu who has twice won the US Women’s Open China sectional qualifier, once as an amateur and once as a rookie pro.
China’s Yin Ruoning was the top amateur. The 16-year-old capped an impressive performance with a closing 67 to finish equal fourth, tied with compatriot Ren Yue (68).