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2018 Taiwan LPGA Tour | Hitachi Ladies Classic First-Round Recap

It was 16-year-old amateur Chang Ya-Chun (張雅淳) who made it atop the round one leaderboard from a strong and competitive line-up at the NT$1 million Hitachi Ladies Classic. She registered a 6-under 66 composed of seven birdies and just one bogey under cold wind at the Orient Golf & Country Club, and led former world no.1 Yani Tseng (曾雅妮) by one shot.

Playing her first tournament as a pro, another Taiwanese youngster Chang Ching-Ling (張靖翎) sit equal third with Thailand’s Supamas Sangchan with first-round 69s.

Huang Yu-Ning (黃郁寧) of Taiwan, Thai pair Piyathida Ployumsri and Parinda Phokan, and Japan LPGA members Mina Nakayama, Satsuki Oshiro, and Rie Tsuji were looming in a tie for fifth. The six-player group is only four shots off the lead.

Going on a tear right from the start, teenager Chang Ya-Chun set the season opener alight with a sparkling front-nine 32 by sinking birdies on Hole 1, 3, 4, 6 and notably on the 8th, where she drained her longest successful putt of the day from 25 feet.

“I felt really confident at the turn, and kept reminding myself that I needed to stay composed,” said Chang, who also got off to a flying start in the first round last year with an impeccable 31 on the front-nine, but a haywire back-nine saw her drop four strokes. “I kind of slowed down a little and made sure every shot was steadily executed.” Her only hiccup today occurred on the par-3 7th when she misjudged the speed and needed three putts to compensate the first putt which stopped rolling halfway.

“A 66 to start is a really encouraging sign because I was so bad in the CTBC event three weeks ago. I simply couldn’t get any rhythm going and I was especially frustrated with the speed of the green,” Chang recalled. “But I felt I was a lot more in control here at the Orient club. The greens feel more like how it is in the U.S. where I base my training.”

Chang is now a senior in the IMG Academy, where she feels equally loaded with academic studies and golf training. “That’s a lot of stuffs to take care of, which makes every second on the golf course extra special,” Chang said. She had been admitted to the University of Arizona.

Yani Tseng, under the tutelage of a new swing coach, 36-year-old Chris Mayson since last April, has sensed a positive vibe to her game that boosted her expectations for the 2018 season. “With all the years competing on the tour, sometimes it’s not easy to concentrate on the simple and go back to basics,” Tseng added. “With the help of Chris, I can somehow reset myself and really focus on it one shot at a time, which is the most important mindset and what brought every golfer improvement.”

Tseng admitted this is one of the best rounds she’s had in years. “That was an amazing feeling on the 15th!” Tseng said of the 278-yard, par-4 hole where she unleashed a cracking tee shot with her driver downhill, downwind and sent the ball to rest just 20 feet from the cup. She then stretched the climax and knocked in the 20-footer for eagle which aroused loud cheers from the crowd.

“I gave myself an 85 or a 90,” said Tseng. “It was no easy conditions, with wind and the changing speeds on the greens, but I coped well and I’m very happy with the consistency I showed.”

Having just passed the pro-test and earned a TLPGA Tour card last November, Chang Ching-Ling put up a performance hard for one to tell it was a maiden pro appearance. Chang showed no sign of nerves and displayed an aggressive game style that saw her record six birdies in her round of 3-under 69. She made three birdies in a row from the 13th to 15th, including a chip-in from 20 yards down the stretch on the 14th.

“I was actually a bit nervous in the beginning because it was very windy and I haven’t been feeling particularly well on the practice range,” said Chang. “But as the game went on, I kind of grew with it and played better and better.” Chang has just recently finished her studies and training in the U.S., where she’s based for the last six years, before being now a full-time pro golfer. She was a varsity golf member in the Lamar University in Texas until she graduated last summer.

Supamas Sangchan of Thailand also carded a 69. “The conditions were nice. I think I my short game was good, 24 putts. I felt great and I hope I can keep it up into the weekend,” said Sangchan. As the champion of the 2016 Sanya Ladies Open, Sangchan earned an LET (Ladies European Tour) card and played eleven events on the LET in 2017. She finished 25th in 2017 in the order of merit with three top-20 showings.

Because of continuous rain fallen on the Orient Golf & Country Club, the tournament has the “preferred lies” rules in play. The second-round play will begin tomorrow morning at 7:15 with the final group of the day teeing off at 10:05. A cut will be made to the top 50 and ties at the end of Saturday.

This event is sponsored by Hitachi, Johnson Controls-Hitachi Air Conditioning Taiwan, and Taiwan Hitachi Asia Pacific. It is the first event on the 2018 TLPGA Tour. It is also the solely featured major tournament in January which boasts a lucrative NT$2.5 million first-place prize. The purse of the tournament has been increased to NT$10 million since 2013 from NT$4 million in its inception year.

All annual proceeds from the tournament and an equal bonus from Hitachi will be used for charitable aid to endow local organizations. Over the last nine years, the tournament has donated more than NT$42 million benefitting nine charity partners.

The Hitachi Ladies Classic 2018 features a field of 108 players representing seven countries. Apart from the 51 local Taiwanese women (6 amateurs and juniors), there are 27 elites from Thailand, second most among all participating nations, and 19 from Japan, as well as another 11 international golfers from the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, and the United States.

For the convenience of the spectators, the tournament offers shuttle bus services to the Orient Golf and Country Club from three meeting points, A7 National Taiwan Sport University station of Taoyuan Airport MRT, O21 Huilong station of the Taipei MRT, and the parking space next to the swimming stadium of National Taiwan Sport University. Book your tickets and enjoy the golf at http://www.taiwan-hitachi.com.tw/ladiesclassic2018/page/ticket/ticket.html .


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