Hainan, China: The China LPGA (CLPGA) Tour tees-off its 13th season today with 69 amateur hopefuls among the 74-strong field at the annual Qualifying Tournament.
With the Q-School now in its fifth year, a total of 20 playing cards are on offer for the 2021 CLPGA Tour season.
Those who qualify from the 54-hole event over the East Course at The Dunes at Shenzhou Peninsula will receive their card for a season that is scheduled to feature more than 10 tournaments.
Among the notable events are the Blue Bay LPGA and the Buick LPGA Shanghai, both of which are co-sanctioned with the LPGA Tour. There’s also the Singapore Ladies Masters and the season-ending China Ladies Open. All tournaments offer Rolex world ranking points for professional players.
Those who finish the Q-School in positions 21-40 will qualify for the CLPGQ Tour, a new development circuit for professionals and amateurs that is designed to give players experience in a tournament setting.
To prepare for this week, 19-year-old Sun Jiaze came to Hainan last month and has been training at Mission Hills Haikou to get used to the tropical conditions on the southern island.
“I came here early to adapt to the conditions, to the bunkers, the windy weather, and so on to make sure I pass the Qualifying,” said the Guangdong native who has won eight tournaments as an amateur over the past three years and is currently 449th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.
“The course here is in very good condition. This course is hard, especially the fairways. This week my mind is very good and it is my goal to play every stroke well. If things go well, I hope I can get first place.”
Also in the field this week is Hong Jiening. The Shanghai University of Sport freshman started playing golf as a 13-year-old and is determined to become a touring pro following a stellar amateur career.
“I want to be a pro. This identity is a recognition of my efforts over many years,” said the 19-year-old who came to live in the Chinese mainland as a child after being born in Chinese Taipei.
“This course is very difficult. I came here a week early to practice. With the windy weather I will choose my clubs according to the situation, accept any error, maintain a good attitude and play every shot well.”
Reina Kondo is one of a handful of non-Chinese in the field. The 20-year-old Japanese came to Shanghai in 2019 to work as a golf coach and decided to enter the Qualifying Tournament with the aim of improving her skills and gaining her playing card.
“I also want to know the level of the Chinese amateur players, learn from the experience and promote the work I am doing in Shanghai,” said Nagoya native Kondo.
“This is the first time I have played this course and my first time in Hainan. It is beautiful and windy. The course conditions are very different from Shanghai. The sand in the bunkers is like flour. I have been working on my bunker play a lot ahead of the tournament.”
With The Dunes at Shenzhou Peninsula resort adjacent to the South China Sea, wind will undoubtedly play a big factor this week. The par-72, 6.208-yard layout, designed by former British Open champion Tom Weiskopf and Phil Smith, features an abundance of sand dunes, jagged-edge bunkering and natural rock outcrops that can come into play.