JIANGSU – Thai players dominated the top of leader board during first round play at the Sun Car Zhangjiagang Shuangshan Classic on Thursday as Saraporn Chamchoi opened with a tournament record six-under 66 to set the early pace in Jiangsu province.
Kanyalak Preedasuttijit (67) was one shot back at the RMB800,000 China LPGA Tour event at Shuangshan Golf Club. Fellow Thai Saranporn Langkulgasettrin was two shots off the pace after a 68.
Defending champion Liu Wenbo opened with a 69 to sit equal fourth with fellow Chinese amateurs Yin Xiaowen and Zhang Yue and Thailand’s Renuka Suksukont and Malaysian Michelle Koh.
Sitting two-under at the turn, the 26-year-old Saraporn picked it up on the back nine when she reeled off four consecutive birdies starting from the 14th hole in her bogey-free round. At the 18th hole she missed another birdie when her downhill putt just missed the cup.
“I feel good and happy today, my putter worked very well. The golf course is in very good condition, greens are good and the fairways are pretty,” said Saraporn who has been winless since capturing the Singha Hua Hin Open in May 2016 on the Thai domestic circuit.
“This course has lots of birdie chances, if you stroke well you can catch the chance. I played in Thailand last week but missed the cut. I felt sad but I had to move on. Today I didn’t think about last week I just kept focused to get a good result.”
Kanyalak, who lost in a first hole play-off to Liu at last year’s tournament, started the day on the Shuangshan back nine and improved as her round progressed. After dropping her only shot with a bogey six at the 16th hole (her seventh hole), she quickly rebounded with two consecutive birdies. One-under through 10 holes, the 20-year-old then carded four birdies over the next five holes to move into contention.
“Today I hit close to the pin and my putting is good, 24 putts in total,” said the Chonburi native Kanyalak. “The greens are pretty firm, the ball is hard to stop. At the par-three sixth hole I used an eight iron to hit the ball to the green and left 15 yards then I chipped in.”
Liu, who was training in the US earlier this year with the swing coach of world No. 1 Feng Shanshan, came out strong in her title defense. Her round featured four birdies and a bogey six at the 470-yard 13th hole.
“Today the woods and irons were good,” said Liu, a 17-year-old from Beijing. “I got the ball near the pins but I lost some birdie chances. I need to pay more attention on the difficult lines.”
Yin, a 13-year-old from Tianjin, demonstrated why she is a player to watch when the youngster started her round with three straight birdies.
“I am satisfied with my play today. My putts and irons are good. I put the ball near the pins and left myself many birdie chances. I only had 23 putts,” said Yin who was playing in her third pro tournament.
“I came here for learning from the pro players. I just want to make the cut. The result today is much better than I expected.”
Shuangshan Golf Club is a 6,317-Yard, Par-72 Layout Designed by Nelson & Haworth.
Sun Car Zhangjiagang Shuangshan Classic first round leading scores (China unless stated; *denotes amateur)
66 – Saraporn Chamchoi (Thailand)
67 – Kanyalak Preedasuttijit (Thailand)
68 – Saranporn Langkulgasettrin (Thailand)
69 – Liu Wenbo*, Renuka Suksukont (Thailand), Yin Xiaowen*, Zhang Yue*,
Michelle Koh (Malaysia)
70 – Chonlada Chayanun (Thailand)
71 – Meng Lin, Wang Jiayi*, Ren Yue, Song Hanee (New Zealand), Li Xiya, Ren Yue, Li Jiayun, Ploychompoo Wirairungrueng (Thailand)
72 – Wang Tianyu, Xiao Qifeng, Wang Mengzhu, Jin Man, Weng Li-ting (Chinese Taipei), Koh Sock Hwee (Singapore), Wu Chih-yun (Chinese Taipei), Chen Min-jou (Chinese Taipei), Huang Wan-ping (Chinese Taipei), Chatprapa Siriprakob (Thailand)
Source: Al Campbell, Xinhua