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China narrowing talent gap

By Qiu Quanlin in Qingyuan, Guangdong | China Daily | Updated: 2016-12-16 07:03

China narrowing talent gap

From left: China's world No 4 Feng Shanshan is poised to lead rising stars Feng Simin, Luo Ying and Shi Yuting in their quest to break the dominance of South Korean opponents at the China Ladies Open in Guangzhou, Guangdong province. Provided To China Daily

Feng leads homegrown contingent's challenge against top Koreans in season-ending tournament

China's female golfers took a great leap forward over the past year and look closer to ending the dominance of South Korea at the Hyundai China Ladies Open.

The season-ending China LPGA Tour event tees off on Friday at Lion Lake Country Club in Qingyuan, a one-hour drive from Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province.

"There will be a great presence from the Chinese side this week; the Koreans are always strong, but I think we can put up a great fight against them," said China No 1 Feng Shanshan, who won two titles on the US LPGA Tour this season and a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics.

Besides Feng, the Chinese lineup includes US LPGA Tour regular Feng Simin, rising stars Shi Yuting and Luo Ying and a number of promising debutants.

China narrowing talent gap

"I have been in great shape since the Rio Olympics, Feng Simin has had some nice finishes on the US LPGA Tour and Shi Yuting qualified for the Japan LPGA Tour," said the 27-year-old Feng, who skipped the championship the past two years because it clashed with her sponsor's Dubai Ladies Masters events.

Feng, a Guandong native, last played the tournament in 2013, when current world No 7 Jang Ha-na raised the trophy.

South Korea has dominated the $550,000 Hyundai China Ladies Open since its inception in 2006. Co-sponsored by the China LPGA Tour and the LPGA of Korea Tour, the tournament traditionally features the best players from both nations.

China narrowing talent gap

From left: Jang Ha-na, world No 7, is the highest-ranked Korean at the China Ladies Open. Other stars include world No 25 Kim Hyo-joo, 2016 KLPGA order of merit fifth-placed Bae Seon-woo and two-time China Ladies Open winner Kim Hye-youn. Provided To China Daily

Li Hong, CEO of China LPGA Tour Ltd, said China has made great strides in female golf and is poised to break South Korea's dominance in the event.

"A rising number of young Chinese players proved their strength in various international competitions and we hope they might be able to break the jinx in this year's event," Li said on Thursday.

Bae Seon-woo, Kim Hae-rym and Kim Min-sun, ranked fifth, sixth and eighth respectively on the Korean LPGA Tour order of merit, pose the biggest challenges for China's contingent.

The strong Korean presence provides inspiration for Jang who, despite winning three times on the US LPGA Tour in 2016, said she had only recently returned to form after several months of struggling with her game.

"I definitely have great confidence coming into this event because I have already won a title at this course," the 24-year-old Jang said after Tuesday's practice round. "But that was three years ago. Hopefully I can play to my standard and have a good finish."

Jang gave kudos to Feng, who she edged by one stroke to win the Fubon LPGA Taiwan Championship in October.

"Feng has played very well recently. Hopefully both of us will enjoy this week and have great shots. The level of competition has become higher now and everyone has a chance to win the tournament," she said.



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