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2020 Taiwan LPGA Tour | Hitachi Ladies Classic 17– 19 Jan First-Round Recap

In her rookie TLPGA season, 23-year-old Chen Chih-Min (陳之敏) scored seven birdies to top the Hitachi Ladies Classic first-round leaderboard at 5-under.

Taiwanese Babe Liu (劉嬿), Thai player Punpaka Phuntumabamrung, and Haruka Amamoto of Japan shot matching 68s to sit one shot adrift. Four more players were within just three shots off Chen’s lead.

The NT$10 million event gathers 108 players from 10 countries who will be competing through three rounds for a NT$2.5 million winning prize. A cut will be made after Saturday’s second-round to the top-60 and ties.

Chen Chih-Min, who graduated from the Oklahoma State University last summer and turned pro, was one of the brightest potential players in Taiwan in her generation. As a new Taishin Financial Holding ambassador, Chen made a statement start in her maiden professional outing today, as she snatched seven birdies at the expense of just two bogeys to rise atop the leaderboard with a 5-under 67.

“I was super nervous ahead of the day because everything felt so new,” Chen said. “But I made a great tee shot on the first, which had me settle down and be able to concentrate on my game. I tried not to look at the scoreboard. I felt I played well in many aspects, the woods, the irons, the putters, they all played their parts well. It was not until I turned in the scorecard did I realize I was actually in the lead!”

“The pressure was pretty big, I would not lie. I really wanted to do well. But I know there are still a long way to go. I’ll just try to pick up as much experience as possible and have a great season,” said the Taiwanese.

Phuntumabamrung’s precise short game saved her from a number of tricky positions. She was able to finish without any blemishes and carded a 4-under 68. “This is my fourth visit to the Hitachi Ladies Classic. I’ve never made it to Sunday the past three years,” Phuntumabamrung admitted. “Hopefully, I can make it to the final round this time, and make a good finish.”

Also carded a bogey-free 68 on Friday was Amamoto. The Japanese has all praises to fellow Japan LPGA Tour member and home favorite Teresa Lu (盧曉晴) and sees her as the woman to beat this week. “I know Teresa. She is very consistence and her game is very compact,” Amamoto said, even though Lu was now in a tie for 27th with six strokes off the pace.

“It’s a bit cold out there. I started a bit stiff but I’m glad everything held up nicely. I hope I’ll continue with the level of intensity,” said the 21-year-old.

Babe Liu, carrying a newly-developed skill set during the off-season, shot 68 as well, 33 on the front nine and 35 on her way in. “It’s something I’ve been discussing with my team, to make quite lots of adjustments to my techniques. I’m still finding the confidence but I feel I’m at 70% already. The performance today definitely helped the confidence,” Liu said.

Lin Tzu-Chi (林子麒), who never missed an appearance at the Hitachi Ladies Classic over the tournament’s 12-year history, is in a tie for fifth after registering a 3-under 69. As one of the star faces on the tournament poster, Lin, who secured two victories at the end of last season, said she had been learning to embrace the attention and expectations. “I feel like I’m not just battling against other players, but also myself, how to tame those inner noises of self-doubt. But I think I’m coping better and better.”

Seven amateurs completed today’s first-round. The Hou sisters, Yu-Sang (侯羽桑) and Yu-Chiang (侯羽薔), both studying in the U.S., returned in action at the home event. Yu-Chiang stood as the best performer out of the seven. She turned in a 1-under 71, making two birdies and one bogey, which put her at equal-ninth.

The Hitachi Ladies Classic, the traditionally season-opening event, offers a total purse of NT$10 million, which saw a huge increase from the NT$4.1 million when the tournament was first held in 2009.

The backdrop this week, the Orient Golf & Country Club, underwent a transformation around the turn on the 9th hole to offer a better scenic view. The practice range was also expanded to help players shake off their rust.

This tournament is presented by Hitachi Ltd. and Johnson Controls-Hitachi Air Conditioning Taiwan Co., Ltd.. Annual proceeds from the Hitachi Ladies Classic as well as an equal bonus from the title sponsor, will be used to endow local charities. Over the last eleven years, the donation amount has exceeded NT$60 million.


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