Hangzhou, China: The China LPGA Tour hooks up with the China Tour this week for the debut of a unique event featuring the country’s top men and women players.
The action tees-off at Zhejiang Province’s Fuchun Resort today with the field for the RMB1.5 million Hangzhou International Challenge including 75 players from each Tour (plus six exemptions) in a three-in-one format.
The men and women will each compete over 72 holes of individual stroke play, while a 36-hole international team stroke play element on the weekend will feature integrated pairings based on a player’s nationality or region and scores. The aggregate result of the male and female player counts as the team score.
To qualify for the weekend, the players will have to be at their best. Only the top-40 (excluding ties) on the leaderboard from each Tour will make the cut.
The principle of the pairings is that the highest ranking male and female alternately selects the highest ranking, opposite gender player from their country or region. If a player cannot be paired by the same country or region, they will be skipped over until the rest of the players don’t have another player to be paired with from the same country or region. The rest will then be paired from the highest ranking.
The final rounds will be played in a four-ball format with each match featuring two teams.
Zhang Weiwei, the China LPGA Tour money leader, comes into Hangzhou in good form after a strong showing in Thailand last week. Playing in the Korean LPGA International Qualifying Tournament in Pattaya, the Hubei native finished fifth to earn her card on next season’s Korean Development Tour.
The 22-year-old said she treated the tournament as a warm-up for the US LPGA Qualifying Tournament later this year. Playing against the men this week will help to sharpen her game.
“It’s an interesting event and a new experience to all of us. You want to partner with the best male no matter who it is. But it’s not in my hands. I just need to try my best the first two rounds and provide myself with the greatest chance,” said Zhang after her practice round at the Daniel J. Obermeyer-designed course.
At 5,940 yards for women, Zhang called the layout short although the sloping greens will provide a challenge.
Du Mohan is looking forward to teeing up against the men for the second time this season. In April, the teenager finished equal 50th in the China Tour’s Shenzhou Peninsula Open.
“We know many of the male professionals but I have lived and practiced in complete seclusion for a while and I don’t know who will come this week and play. There are many great male players. It’s nice that we compete against each other in the same venue and make progress together,” said the 17-year-old Beijing native, winner of the Golf Liquor Zhuhai Golden Gulf Challenge in May.