ZHUHAI – Chiang Rai native Ploychompoo Wirairungrueng and fellow Thai golfer Saranporn Langkulgasettrin set the early pace at the CLPGA Zhuhai Heritage on Wednesday as the Thais battled through wet conditions to card rounds of five-under 67 in southern Guangdong province.
China’s Wang Mengzhu and Chinese Taipei’s Peng Chieh were a shot back on 68 after the first round of the RMB200,000 China LPGA Tour event, a new tournament with a low purse designed to create more playing opportunities for Chinese players.
Malaysian Ainil Bakar, Thai Aunchisa Utama and Chinese amateur Cai Danlin were equal fifth after shooting rounds of 69 over the Colin Montgomerie-designed Zhuhai Golden Gulf layout.
With play suspended for just over 90 minutes at 11.08am for rain, Saranporn, one of the early starters, held it together in the wet conditions for a bogey-free round that featured 29 putts.
“Today my driver is good, my shot is okay, my putting was great, better than I expect. Because the greens were kind of slow I just wanted to get to the hole, past the hole just a little bit, but most of the putts I made,” said the 17-year-old Phuket native who captured the Wuhan Challenge last month for her 10th professional win.
“My shoes are soaked inside but the weather was not really an issue. It was easier because I could hit the ball and they would stop on the green, but it was kind of tough because the fairways were wet.”
Ploychompoo came into this week fresh off her second pro win on Sunday after the Chiang Rai native prevailed in a playoff to capture the Taiwan Mobile Ladies Open. Her confidence showed as she came out firing with four straight birdies to start. The 22-year-old then picked up further strokes at the seventh and 10th holes before her lone bogey at the 354-yard, par-four 14th hole.
“I had a really good start with four birdies in a row, but I didn’t hit it that well on the back compared to the front nine where my putts were lipping out,” said Ploychompoo, winner of last year’s Zhangjiagang Shuangshan Challenge.
“I wasn’t thinking about last week anymore because it has already past. This week I’m just looking to play my best each day. But the rain break definitely affected my rhythm. Since the course is not easy I just want to do my best on every shot.”
Chinese veteran Wang started her day on the Zhuhai Golden Gulf back nine and posted her career-best round. The Hebei native had a chance to grab a share of the lead until she bogeyed her last hole, the ninth, in a round that featured six birdies and two bogeys.
“It was one of those days when I had many good breaks. I didn’t hit any errant shots or find any troublesome lies. Everything was in a great flow. You know, it sounds weird, the shower was heavy out there but I couldn’t play better,” said the 25-year-old.
“It’s my career-best round and the best start so far on the China LPGA Tour. I might be sleepless tonight but I will try to calm myself down coming into the next round. There is a lot of golf to play. I need to do right things for next two days.”
Zhuhai Golden Gulf Golf Club is a 6,183-yard, par-72 layout designed by Colin Montgomerie.
CLPGA Zhuhai Heritage first round leading scores
67 – Saranporn Langkulgasettrin (THA), Ploychompoo Wirairung
68 – Peng Chieh (TWN), Wang Mengzhu
69 – Ainil Bakar (MAS), Aunchisa Utama (THA), Cai Danlin*
70 – Wannasiri Sirisampant (THA), He Muni*, Dussavi Soopimjit (THA),
Amanda Tan (SGP)
71 – Luo Ying, Lin Yezhou, Du Mohan*, Chen Min-jou (TWN), Ji Yifan*,
72 – Li Jiayun, Chen Liqing, Sui Xiang, Piyathida Ployumsri (THA), Tian Qi*,
Pan Shan*, Chonlada Chayanun (THA), Punpaka Phuntumabamrung (THA),
Jang So-young (KOR), Xiao Qifeng, Aretha Pan (MAS)
Source: Al Campbell