Battle heats up for CLPGA Tour finale

Updated: 2011-12-16 07:38

(China Daily)

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XIAMEN, Fujian province - As the Hyundai China Ladies Open gets set to tee off in Xiamen on Friday, a fierce battle is emerging as to who will walk away with the Order of Merit championship in the final event of the China LPGA Tour season.

With Porani Chutichai, the current leader on the money list with 239,415 yuan ($37,640) in earnings, confirming she won't be playing in the championship, several players have the opportunity to vault over the Thai to win the title in the CLPGA's third season.

Porani, a three-time winner in China this year, will be among a growing number of CLPGA Tour graduates playing in Japan next year after recently securing her card at qualifying school.

Among those in the hunt for the money title is Pan Yanhong, currently second on the Order of Merit with 220,356 yuan. The big-hitting former weightlifter won her maiden title in September at the Wenzhou Orient Yangyi Challenge and will be in the field despite battling tendonitis.

Thailand's Patcharajutar Kongkraphan is also in a good position to retain her title this year with 204,498 yuan in prize money following wins at the Beijing Pearl and the Caofeidian Challenge.

Li Jiayun is another with a shot at winning as the rookie has earned 212,931 yuan.

"It's going to be a great chance for me to win both the Order of Merit and the rookie-of-the-year honor," said the 23-year-old who helped China win silver at last year's Asian Games.

"Not everyone get such a chance and it would be a great honor for me if I had both. I had a great year as a rookie and the Order of Merit will be another feather in my cap. The China Ladies Open has a strong field with fierce competitiveness, so I have to give it my best to seize the chance."

Li, the national team captain who won the China Pro-Am Championship earlier this year, is playing in the Open for the third time after finishing equal 19th in 2009 in her most recent appearance. She comes into Xiamen fresh off the Japan LPGA Tour qualifying school where she finished 52nd last week. Next year, she may be able to get up to 15 starts in Japan.

"Three tees have been moved forward a bit this time (at the Orient Xiamen Golf Club). It could give players more chances to shoot lower scores than before," she said.

"I hit a lot of slices last week when I played in Japan. I've been working with my coach, Michael Dickie, and I hope I will be steadier this week. This is my main concern at present."