Golfer Ye ends Chinese drought with Shanghai Classic win

Updated: 2011-04-06 09:49
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Golfer Ye ends Chinese drought with Shanghai Classic win

China's Ye Liying wins the 2011 China LPGA tour's opening event, Shanghai Classic, in Shanghai, April 3, 2011. [Photo/]

SHANGHAI - China's Ye Liying captured the $50,000 Shanghai Classic on Sunday by a dominant five shot margin, effectively ending a winless streak by Chinese players on their domestic tour dating back to 2009.

Playing in the first tournament of the China LPGA Tour's third season, Fujian native Ye closed with a round of two-under 70 at the Orient (Shanghai) Sports and Country Club for a 54-hole score of 1-over 217 and the 7,500-dollar winner's purse.

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Compatriot Tian Hong (72) finished runner-up, while Thailand's Nontaya Srisawang (75) and Chinese-Taipei's Yao Hsuan-yu (75) were equal third, six shots back.

Overnight leader Mina Nakayama of Japan blew up to an 82 to finish 11 back.

With a light rain dousing the course in the morning and the temperature hovering around seven degrees Celsius, the weather turned to sunshine and a little wind in the afternoon as Ye took advantage of the soft greens.

The Japan LPGA Tour regular, who returned home following last month's deadly earthquake, carded four birdies against two bogeys in the cool and windy conditions for her first CLPGA Tour title.

After playing par golf through seven holes, the 32-year-old Ye, who started the final round one shot off the lead, dropped a stroke at the par-three eighth before rebounding with a birdie four at the next to make the turn at even par. Following a tap-in birdie at the 11th, she drained a 12-footer for birdie at the next and never looked back.

"It's my pleasure winning this tournament. It's windy, wet and cold when I started today. I played a little bit conservative on the front nine. I didn't pay much attention to the leaderboard and just played my game," said the Shanghai-based pro who had her husband caddying.

"I had an idea that I had the lead at the 16th hole, but at that time I was leading by a lot which made me play more aggressively. I got a bogey at the 17th, but it is a mistake I could accept. We all know that the (U.S.) LPGA Tour will come to China this August [for the Imperial Springs LPGA tournament in Guangzhou] and I hope to earn enough points to enter the field."

Runner-up Tian, last year's CLPGA rookie-of-the-year, called her best performance on the Tour something to build on.

"The result is not expected," said the Xian native. "Today it is not good weather for playing golf, but I'm so excited to finish the runner-up."

Nontaya, tops among a 23-strong group of Thais in Shanghai, earned her playing card for the CLPGA season with her equal-third place finish. After picking up her Ladies European Tour card earlier, she said she could now plan her schedule for the year.

"Before I came here, I had a three week break and came here for practice. I'm happy looking back and feel excited, especially the final round. It was windy, wet and cold today, but I just played my game and gave it my best shot. I'm happy with it. I had similar experience in Spain last year when it was minus-four one round. So this weather is not strange for me," the Chiang Mai native said.

"I've qualified for the European Tour and now I qualified successfully for CLPGA Tour ... I think I will not play too much tournaments on the LET, so now the CLPGA might be one of my main tours."

The third year of the CLPGA Tour features 18 events culminating in the 250,000-U.S.-dollar Hyundai China Ladies Open this December in Xiamen, Fujian province. The next event is the Yangzhou Challenge, April 22-24.