Emotional Triumph for Veteran Pan

Pan Yanhong celebrates her Zhuhai success with her son.

Zhuhai, China: Pan Yanhong has rolled back the clock to become the oldest winner in China LPGA Tour history.

The 38-year-old Chinese carded two birdies over the last three holes to win the Guowei Centre Plaza Zhuhai Challenge by two strokes in Guangdong. 

Playing against much younger competition at Orient Zhuhai Golf Club, several of whom were more than half her age, the Hubei native closed with a two-under-par 70 for a 54-hole score of six-under 210.

Her sixth China LPGA Tour title ended a winless drought dating back to 2015 and was worth RMB75,000. 

“This is a long process of realising a dream. I picked up golf here in Zhuhai,” said Pan who at 38 years, five months and 16 days is three days older than France’s Gwladys Nocera who won the Suzhou Taihu Ladies Open in 2003.

“I always hoped I could win here and show the golf course that it had done the right thing to invest in me. I couldn’t help myself from crying,” said Pan.

Zhao Zhimeng posted her best result since turning pro in 2019. The 19-year-old carded a 71 to finish runner-up. Sui Xiang (70) was four shots off the pace in third place, while 15-year-old amateur Zeng Liqi (73) was one shot further back. 

For Pan, the victory was especially sweet as it was her first since returning to golf in 2019 after taking two years off to have a child. Over the summer, the former powerlifter undertook an intensive exercise regime where she dropped 10 kilograms to become a shadow of her former self. 

Starting the day with a one-shot lead, Pan was in and out of the lead several times as she battled Zhao down the stretch. With the two players tied through 13 holes, Zhao chipped in for birdie at the 512-yard 14th for a one stroke lead. At the next, Zhao missed the green for a bogey.

After both made birdie threes at the 305-yard 16th, Zhao found bunker trouble at the par-three 17th. She was unable to get up-and-down and had to settle for a bogey while Pan made par.

At the final hole, Pan hit her second shot from 243 yards with a five-wood to within 15 feet of the pin for an eagle attempt. She missed the putt and made birdie while Zhao could only muster par as her birdie attempt lipped out. 

“The competition was really intense,” said Pan, whose son and mentor husband were on hand to witness her historic win. “I thought the second shot at the last hole was a little surprising. I have never hit so far with a five-wood, which created a great chance to win. It was a great shot.”

Zeng, looking to become the youngest winner in Tour history, saw her opportunity evaporate early when she four-putted the first green for a double-bogey seven. Her round also featured four birdies, including three straight from the sixth hole, and three bogeys. 

“I felt exhausted after two events in a row. That might be why I couldn’t focus over some of the first holes and find my rhythm,” said the Jiangxi teenager, currently 92nd in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. 

“I thought there could be a chance after three consecutive birdies but my iron play was poor after the turn because I was really tired,” she added. 

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