Hard Work Pays Dividends for Kusuma

Kusuma Meechai ended a 10-year victory drought.

Shanghai, China: Kusuma Meechai claimed her first victory in a decade when she beat fellow-Thai Pakin Kawinpakorn in a sudden-death play-off at the China LPGA Tour’s CTBC Ladies Classic. 

With Pakin (70) and Kusuma (68) deadlocked at five-under 211 through 54 holes at Shanghai Silport Golf Club, the Sa Kaeo native confirmed her victory when she sank a three-foot birdie putt at the second extra hole, the par-five 18th.

The victory, Kusuma’s first since winning the 2013 Wuhan Challenge, was worth RMB52,500. 

China’s Shi Yuli (70) and Zeng Liqi (70) finished one shot out of the play-off, while Cao Xinyu (69) was the top amateur a shot further back.  

Tan Lingling (73) and Japan’s Senno Yasufuka (73), the overnight co-leaders with Pakin, finished three strokes off the pace in a group that included Thai Saraporn Chamchoi (72).  

At the first play-off hole – the 539-yard 18th – Pakin left her approach 30 feet from the pin and two-putted for par. Kusuma had a 12-footer for a winning birdie but missed.

Playing the same hole again, Pakin left her birdie putt from 35 feet short. Kusuma, who had found the green with a pitching wedge on her third shot, then made her three-footer to end the contest.

Kusuma finished the tournament strongly with her second consecutive round of 68 that featured five birdies and a lone bogey. 

“I worked hard. This is my second title in China, the first was in Wuhan many years ago. I am so happy,” said 28-year-old Kusuma. “I want more wins, so I will keep working harder to get the next one. This win gives me more confidence.” 

Pakin, a standout at Kansas University, had a rough start with an opening-hole bogey followed by a triple-bogey at the 158-yard sixth when she found water off the tee en route to reaching the turn at 37. She then closed with a bogey-free back nine featuring three birdies. 

“It was a fun week. I did my best. I couldn’t ask for more because on the front nine I had a triple-bogey and then a lot of birdies coming in. It was a fun round for me chasing the championship,” said 32-year-old Pakin, winless on the CLPGA Tour since 2018 when she triumphed at the CLPGA Zhuhai Heritage. 

Thai Sherman Santiwiwatthanaphong (71) maintained her spot atop the CLPGA Tour Order of Merit, ahead of Zeng Liqi (70).

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