Hangzhou, China: Zhang Weiwei became the first Chinese to win three times in one China LPGA Tour season when she cruised to a seven-shot victory at the weather-plagued Hangzhou International Championship.
The 22-year-old Hubei native started the day at Zhejiang Province’s Fuchun Resort by finishing the final eight holes of her rain-delayed third round, producing a late birdie and an eagle-three en route to a 68. Four shots clear at the top going into the final round, she further extended her advantage with a closing 67.
Zhang received RMB75,000 for her winning score of 14-under 270 to solidify her lead atop the CLPGA Tour Order of Merit.
Xiamen native Liu Yan (66) was a distant second, while teenager Du Mohan (70) was third at 10 shots back.
In the RMB1.5 million tournament that also featured the men of the China Tour, Chao Haiming hung on to claim his second pro win and the RMB126,000 first prize. The Jiangsu native carded a 70 to beat Thai Suteepat Prateeptienchai (66) by one stroke with a six-under 274 score.
The Thai pairing of Prima Thammaraks (70) and Suteepat won the team award featuring a woman and man player from the same country. They split the RMB100,000 first prize.
In winning three times this season on the CLPGA Tour, Zhang joins Thais Porani Chutichai (2010) and Saranporn Langkulgasettrin (2017) as the only players to accomplish the feat. Her final round featured five birdies and a lone bogey. As well as securing her fourth career title, Zhang also set a new mark for the largest winning margin for a 72-hole event.
“Going into this year, one of my goals was three wins. I’m excited to make it. I hope to continue my good form and become the first to win four times on the Tour,” said Zhang, who also won in Wuhan and Beijing this season.
“With such bad weather nearly every day and waking up at 4 am, I am really happy that I can have 14-under in a real tough event. In the pre-event news conference I predicted the winning score at 14-under. On the back nine, I remembered that. I tried to make two more birdies.”
Liu, who has been struggling with her swing of late and whose final round included four birdies and three bogeys, praised playing partner Zhang.
“She (Zhang) played pretty good and had a spectacular score in such tough conditions. At the end of day, I wasn’t able to catch up with her. I just played my game and had as low a score as possible. Runner-up is good for my confidence.”
Prima, the Iowa State alumni who finished seventh among the women, said there was a lot of pressure on her and partner Suteepat given that they were the only Thai pairing in the team competition.
“Honestly I didn’t do much. He (Suteepat) was on fire today and played amazing,” said Prima, winner of the 2017 Xiamen Orient Masters. “Every time I made a bogey he made some birdies so it’s literally all him. Given it’s the first year and we get to win for our country, it’s really cool.”
Chao, who posted his first win since 2015, became the second Chinese mainlander to win on the China pro circuit this year. The veteran said the win made up for years of frustration.