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Japanese Hana Wakimoto stayed comparatively steady throughout a high-pressure final Friday at the NT$4 million SAMPO Ladies Open. She carded a 2-over 74 to secure her first professional win with a total 2-under 214. This week has been only her third TLPGA tournament after the Hitachi Ladies Open and the EFG Hong Kong Ladies Open.

Japan becomes the biggest winner at the inaugural SAMPO Ladies Open. Wakimoto’s compatriot Mina Nakayama used two birdies in the last three holes to emerge the solo runner-up at 1-under 215. Wakimoto pocketed NT$720,000 for the victory; Nakayama won a second-place prize check worth NT$384,000.

Again after last week’s EFG Hong Kong Ladies Open, Taiwan’s Chen Hsuan (陳萱) earned herself another low-amateur honor for the third consecutive tournament with round of even-par 72 and a three-round total of 216. Chen will be playing next week’s TLPGA Nan Pao Ladies Open as well and hoping to extend the record to four in a row.

It’s almost like a déjà vu for Taiwan’s overnight leader Lee Hsin (李欣), who fell to a tie for third in Hong Kong last week from solo 36-hole lead. Having a two-stroke cushion on the first tee of the Taipei Golf Club, Lee made a dream start as she quickly birdied the first to open her winning way; however, that dream turned to a nightmare in a blink of time. Lee made the turned at 4-over, making five bogeys in the preceding eight holes.

Lee shot another three bogeys to wrap up with a 7-over 79 which made her to plummet down the standing to equal fifth with Chen Yu-Ju (陳宇茹) and amateur Lu Hsin-Yu (盧昕妤). Chen, with a better round of 70 on Friday, replaced Lee as the top finishing Taiwanese this week and won a bonus set of SAMPO appliances worth NT$85,890.

Wakimoto, playing her third year as a pro, admitted it wasn’t her best game but gladly it was just enough to set her apart from the field. “I took a little longer than usual to fall asleep yesterday. If I said I would only want to play my game and not to think about winning and such, then I was definitely lying. The thought of winning made me a bit nervous this morning. But when it actually got started today, things were getting better,” said Wakimoto.

“I was actually struggling to make any birdies. And I saw the scoreboard, then I thought it would probably be a better strategy to make more high-percentage shots instead of eagerly trying to make things happen,” said Wakimoto, who started golf at age 8. “Turned out it was not a bad strategy!”

Wakimoto hopes to collect as much experience and bring them back to her home Tour as her short-term goal would be a full JLPGA Tour membership and potentially some top honors in 2019. She is also already setting her sights on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Missing another golden opportunity for a maiden title, a visibly disappointed Lee Hsin said, “it felt like something was on my shoulder. My head says one think and my hand says another. I was hoping I could get my rhythm back after the turn, but obviously I still couldn’t stand up to the pressure test.”

Chen Hsuan, the low amateur at the CTBC Ladies Classic and EFG Hong Kong Ladies Open this year, recorded one birdie and one bogey on Friday. “I hoped I would make more birdies, but that’s no easy conditions at this Taipei course, it’s hard to get very low score,” said Chen. “I made a few more mistakes with my irons than I should, and missed a bunch of putts from about five feet. But well, that leaves some room for improvement and urges me to work harder. I hope I can continue to play well at Nan Pao Club next week.”

The TLPGA arranged a Kid’s Day today with pro player Liang Yi-Ling (梁宜羚) acting as mentor to members of the Chang-Ping Elementary School golf team. A new TLPGA roadmap this year aims to move the tour from more of a receiving end to the giving end which encourages pro members to pass on their love of the sport to the next generation.


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