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2023 Taiwan LPGA Tour | Hitachi Ladies Classic 6 – 8 Jan First-Round Recap

Hsu Wei-Ling (徐薇淩) used a 4-under 68 to take the lead in the first-round of the Hitachi Ladies Classic, a NT$10 million TLPGA Tour top-tier tournament. Yeh Hsin-Ning (葉欣寧), who has been suffering from thyroid conditions, made an impressive comeback attempt producing a 3-under 69 to sit in solo second.

Japan LPGA’s Step-Up Tour 2021 year-end no.1 Kokona Sakurai, and fellow Japanese circuit campaigners Wu Chia-Yen (吳佳晏) and Tsai Pei-Ying (蔡佩穎) all sit in a crowded six-way tie for third with Jessica Peng (彭婕), amateur talent Huang Ting-Hsuan (黃亭瑄), and Thai player Nanthikarn Raksachat.

Hsu capitalized on three of the four par-5s today at the Orient Golf & Country Club, making five birdies and just one bogey in the first-round. “The greens are fast and I like them this way. I was confident on the greens,” said Hsu, who also prevented an early setback on the 3rd hole with an impressive 15-foot par putt. “This is my tenth visit to Hitachi. I’ve always played well here, but never was in the lead. So, this is a first. It’s the perfect start of a new year.”

In fact, in her nine past outings, Hsu has never finished worse than a T13, recording six top-10s among these ventures. While Hsu is aiming to finally earn a victory here, Tsai Pei-Ying started promising as well to repeat her win from last year. She scored three birdies and one bogey and is trailing by just two. Hsu and Tsai both needed 29 putts. “I didn’t really get close enough to the pins. I tried my best on the greens, though,” said Tsai.

Tsai closed the 2022 TLPGA Tour in the third place on the official money list, with one title from the season-opening Hitachi Ladies Classic. Meanwhile, she finished in no.38 on the JLPGA Tour, also having a victory under her belt.

The six-player tie for third included Tsai’s two playing partners today and a pair of 18-year-olds, Wu Chia-Yen and Kokona Sakurai. Wu became the youngest money winner in the TLPGA Tour history in the 2021 season, while Sakurai earned such title on the 2022 JLPGA’s Step-Up Tour.

Wu will be playing her first full season on the Step-Up Tour this year, and she made the most of the chance to grab some tips from her Japan-based playing partners during today’s round. “I also tried to speak some Japanese with Kokona. I’ve been practicing hard,” said Wu. “I’ve been in a number of events in Japan over the last few months. There are a lot of sloping greens, just like what we have this week at the Orient. So I can feel more comfortable here with my putter. The thing is I didn’t really handle the wind very well, couldn’t put the ball close enough to get more birdies.” The recent CTBC Invitational runner-up made three birdies and one bogey.

Kokona Sakurai’s first appearance at the Hitachi Ladies Classic went off to an impressive start. She produced four birdies before the turn, but didn’t quite extend the momentum to the back nine, committing a double-bogey on the 12th and ended up in the tie at 2-under with five birdies, one bogey, and one double-bogey.

Sitting at 1-under in solo second is comeback player Yeh Hsin-Ning, who only played a handful of events over the past three years because of thyroid illness. “I would like to thank my sponsors again. Without their support, I wouldn’t be still here to chase my dream,” said Yeh. “And I would want to thank my dog ‘Bai Bai’, who is a giant poodle. He became a family of mine twelve months ago and he is so loving. I’m really appreciative that he came to my world when I was sort of in a dark time of my career,” said Yeh. “He is just like a big bear. I feel calm just being with him. I call him Coach Bai, because sometimes he feels like the best mental coach to me, helping me to block the negativities out.”

Yeh’s 68 on Friday was her best round ever on the Orient layout. She made four birdies, including a chip-in on the par-3 7th from 15 feet, offset by one bogey. She needed 30 putts.

Amateur talent Huang Ting-Hsuan’s 70 today puts her in equal third on the first-round leaderboard, composed of four birdies and two bogeys. “I was feeling good until that three-putt bogey on the 10th hole, and suddenly I was overthinking and things became a little complicated,” said Huang. “I hope I will trust my putter better tomorrow.” The youngster made the cut in all of her past three outings here.

The beginning of the 2023 TLPGA Tour season returns at the Orient Golf & Country Club. The Hitachi Ladies Classic is presented by Hitachi, and Johnson Controls-Hitachi Air Conditioning Taiwan.

102 professionals from Taiwan, Thailand, and Japan, as well as 6 amateur players, play for a NT$2.5 million top prize through three rounds of stroke-play competition. A cut will be made after 36 holes to the top 60 and ties.

Proceeds from the tournament will all go directly to benefit local charities. Over the past fourteen years, the tournament has donated more than NT$85 million.


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