Zhuhai, China: Renuka Suksukont survived a wild finish to win the Hengqin Phoenix Tree Building Orient Golf Challenge by two strokes, the first tournament of the 2019 China LPGA Tour season.
The Thai headed into the final hole with a one-stroke lead at Zhuhai Orient in Guangdong Province. In wet conditions, she ensured victory with a birdie-three on the closing hole to sign for a 73. She finished on five-under 211 to earn RMB75,000.
Beijinger Shi Yuting was runner-up after posting a 68, one stroke ahead of compatriots Zhang Weiwei (73) and Du Mohan (68). Liu Yiyi (68) added to the late charge by mainland Chinese players as the Shanxi teenager shot a 68 to finish equal fifth with Chinese Taipei’s Peng Chieh (71), four strokes behind the winner.
After a rainstorm delayed the start of play by 30 minutes, Renuka reached seven-under when she made a birdie at the 385-yard second hole. After consecutive bogeys on holes four and five, she rebounded for a birdie-two at the 157-yard eighth hole.
The back nine proved a roller-coaster for the Pathum Thani native, her home stretch including four birdies, two bogeys and a seven at the par-four 14th where she sliced her second shot into the water.
“Before hole 14, my feeling was okay. After that everything was so hard. I just tried to make pars,” said 23-year-old Renuka after claiming her second career China LPGA Tour title. “I want one or two more wins this season,” she added.
Shi, back playing in China after losing her playing card in Japan last season, said she was well prepared for the cold and wet conditions and that helped her game which featured five birdies and a lone bogey after starting the day seven strokes back.
“My expectations for the competition this week were high, and I’m satisfied with my performance,” said the 21-year-old, who won this tournament in 2016 for her maiden CLPGA Tour win.
“The plan this year is to get more world ranking points. I will play more than 20 second-tier tournaments in Japan. The goal is to be a second-tier prize winner on the Tour, which is difficult but still worth challenging for. Once I can get the second-tier prize winner, I can get a first-tier tournament card for the Tour in 2020.”
Yin Ruoning was the top amateur. The 16-year-old national team player closed with a 74 for a three-over score and an equal 18th finish. “Today the course was slippery and muddy and the ball didn’t go far,” said the Shanghai teenager.