Zhuhai, China: Shanxi teenager Liu Yiyi underlined her potential with a three-stroke win at the weather-hit CTBC Ladies Classic, her maiden professional victory.
The second-year pro closed with her third consecutive round of 69 over the Dragon Lake Golf Club course in sunny conditions to finish on nine-under 207. The victory at the China LPGA Tour event, co-sanctioned with the TLPGA Tour, earned her RMB120,000.
Defending champion Chen Yu-ju, who was tied for the lead with Liu through 36 holes, could only muster an even-par 72 in the final round as the Chinese Taipei native tied for equal runner-up with Korean Na Hee-won (71).
Chinese rookie pro Du Mohan (72) tied for equal fourth with Chinese Taipei’s Peng Chieh (71) on 211.
Liu, who last year won the China sectional qualifier to get into the Women’s US Open, carded three birdies against one bogey over Dragon Lake’s front nine to build up a lead she would never relinquish. On the back nine, she picked up another stroke at the 165-yard 13th to seal the win.
The 18-year-old became the first China mainland player to win on the TLPGA Tour. She is also the first mainland China player to win a CTBC-sponsored tournament dating back to 2014.
“I don’t know the history behind this win but it’s my first pro win, which is always the most important. I feel very excited and nearly cried for this. I knew it would be a tough day in the final round,” said Liu, who shot a Tour record 11-under 61 in the opening round of the Women’s China Open in December.
She said the 30-foot birdie putt at 13 was the turning point.
Chen, the 21-year-old who topped the TLPGA Tour Order of Merit last year, led the tournament going into the final hole of the delayed second round but a three-putt bogey dropped her to co-leader with Liu.
A bad start to the final round followed as she made two bogeys over the first four holes and failed to make a challenge. The Kaohsiung native closed with a round that featured three bogeys and three birdies, including one at the 362-yard last.
Na, a 25-year-old Seoul native, who was two strokes off the lead after second round was completed at 10 am, finished equal runner-up on the strength of a solid back nine where she carded three birdies, including one at the last where she sank a 45-foot putt.
China’s Yin Ruoning was the top amateur, the teenager closing with a 72 to finish eight strokes off the pace at one-under.