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2023 Da Da Digital Ladies Open
September 27 - 29 (Wed. - Fri.)
2023 Hitachi Ladies Classic
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2023 Taiwan LPGA Tour | Hitachi Ladies Classic 6 – 8 Jan Second-Round Recap

Teenager Kokona Sakurai exhibited her all-around skillset to move into solo lead after a second-round 71 at the NT$10 million Hitachi Ladies Classic, the first event on the 2023 TLPGA Tour.

The Japanese is one of the only two players to break par on Saturday in gusty conditions at the Orient Golf Club. First-round leader Hsu Wei-Ling (徐薇淩), who carded a 4-under 68 yesterday, fell into 10th place at 1-over 145.

JLPGA Tour member and defending champion Tsai Pei-Ying (蔡佩穎), and JLPGA’s Step-Up Tour player Wu Chia-Yen (吳佳晏) will go into the final round on Sunday with a two-shot disadvantage at 1-under 143, after both finishing today with matching 73s. Comeback player Yeh Hsin-Ning (葉欣寧) also sit on 143 with her second-round 74.

Sakurai arrived at the turn today with a 1-over 37, after double-bogeying the ninth hole; however, the 2022 Step-Up Tour year-end no.1 regrouped quickly to make a statement with a trio of birdies from 11 to 13, where she holed a chip-in from the fringe.

“I was hitting well with my woods. And my approaches were on point today, which are usually not my forte,” said Sakurai. “The wind kicked up a bit today, making it difficult to judge the distance. I had to talk to the caddie before every shot to make the best possible decision. I’ve made one double-bogey in each round, which should not be happening in the final round again if I am to win this.”

The 18-year-old shocked the JLPGA’s Step-Up Tour as she dominantly swept away five victories throughout her rookie season in 2022, which confirmed her place on the main JLPGA Tour in 2023.

Tsai Pei-Ying, who garnered one JLPGA Tour victory last year, matched the pace with Sakurai through 17 before she dramatically dropped two shots on the final hole after a water penalty.

“It took a lot of patience and focus in these conditions. The wind made it difficult for all of us, which dragged the game slower than usual,” said Tsai, who spent almost six hours on the course. “I felt like my calf is cramping up. But other than that final hole, I felt I was playing some solid golf. I’m going to avoid the mistakes tomorrow and keep up what I’ve been doing great.” Tsai needed only 28 putts in the second round, which converted three birdies, offset by two bogeys and the final-hole double-bogey.

Wu Chia-Yen made two birdies and three birdies today. Fresh off a runner-up finish in last week’s CTBC Invitational, Wu said she did not swing as free as she did this past week. “I’m going make some fine-tuning very quickly and hopefully I can drop more birdies and play more aggressively on Sunday,” said the 18-year-old.

Yeh Hsin-Ning’s 34 putts today kept her from moving. She committed four “three-putts”, resulting in three bogeys and one double-bogey on Hole 6. “It played very slow because the wind was messy. We were constantly resetting our focus. Along with the fact that I just came back to the game makes it really hard for my body and my concentration,” said Yeh, who only played a handful of events over the past three years to fight thyroid conditions.

“I’m going to just have fun out there tomorrow, and see if I can finally get a win.” Yeh made a promise early in her professional career to pour all her earnings for a charity cause after her first tournament win, but the moment has not arrived just yet. “I’m actually proud of my first two rounds. It’s the closest I’ve ever been to winning. There is just a two-shot margin.”

Overnight leader Hsu Wei-Ling struggled on the greens today, making a 75 with just one birdie and six bogeys. She needed 35 putts.

Amateur talent Huang Ting-Hsuan (黃亭瑄) is in a tie for fifth at even-par 144 with compatriots An Ho-Yu (安禾佑), Jessica Peng (彭婕), Japanese Yuna Arakawa, and Thailand’s Nanthikarn Raksachat. “The difficulty of the greens is pretty high this week, with some hidden slopes and grains. I kept telling myself to stay really patient and not to take too much risk,” Huang said.

67 players who were at 154 or lower advanced into the final-round. 36-hole leader Sakurai, defending champion Tsai, and Wu will be in the last flight out tomorrow morning at 10:30.

Sunday’s winner will take away a NT$2.5 million top prize. All 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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