Exhausted Zhang Hangs on for Wire-to-Wire Victory

Zhang Weiwei held on for her second win of the China LPGA Tour season.

Wuhan, China: Zhang Weiwei completed a wire-to-wire victory in the Wuhan Challenge to claim her second win of the China LPGA Tour season.

The 22-year-old Hubei native closed with a 73 to finish on six-under 210 at Orient Wuhan. The two-shot victory was worth RMB75,000 and solidified Zhang’s lead atop the China LPGA Tour Order of Merit.

Japan’s Yu Okamura and Ayaka Suzuki, who were three strokes off the lead going into the day, were unable to mount challenges. Both closed with even-par 72s to finish equal second with China’s Pan Yanhong (71). Thai Parinda Phokan (68) tied for fifth with China’s Zhang Yunjie (70) on 215.

Zhang, who has finished no worse than sixth in seven China LPGA Tour starts this season, had vowed to play aggressively in the final round to protect the lead she’d held since the opening round. After starting with four straight pars, a double-bogey seven at the 508-yard fifth saw her fall to five-under in hot and overcast conditions.

After snaring her first birdie of the day at the ninth to make the turn at one-over, Zhang picked up further strokes at the 10th and 12th to reach eight-under. She added another birdie at the 176-yard 16th but also ran up three bogeys, including on the final two holes.

“I am tired [after playing four straight tournaments] and it has affected my performance. Thursday was the best day for me. Yesterday was a little down and today I feel exhausted,” said Zhang after securing her third career China LPGA Tour title in front of family and friends.

“I had many supporters in Beijing [where she won last month], but here is different. It is my hometown. They cheered for me every shot. I want to play the best I can but I did feel a bit of pressure,” she added.

Playing in the final group, Suzuki rose to the top of the leaderboard when she made her second birdie of the day at the 329-yard seventh hole to get to six-under. She was, however, unable to build on that, her back nine including four bogeys against two birdies.

“I was on the top of leaderboard for a brief time, but I was so nervous,” said the 24-year-old, who played amateur golf in the US. “This is my first time playing in the final group. It took me two to three holes to really get into the game.”

Pan, a five-time winner on the China LPGA Tour who is back playing after taking a year off to have a child, put together her best result of the season. The former powerlifter carded eagles on holes 12 and 17 but stumbled to a double-bogey six at the last when a par would have forced a play-off with Zhang. “This is the first time I had two eagles in a round. Although I didn’t win, I’m super happy,” said the 36-year-old Hebei native.

China’s 15-year-old Pan Jiehong was the top amateur despite struggling to a final round 77, ending eight strokes off the pace in joint 11th.

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