Thailand's Patcharajutar continues Beijing Pearl Golf Challenge reign

14:00, May 29, 2011      

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After struggling earlier in the year, Thailand's Patcharajutar Kongkraphan put to rest any talk of a sophomore slump Saturday when she successfully defended her Beijing Pearl Challenge title, winning the 50,000-U.S.-dollar tournament, the fourth leg of the China LPGA Tour season.

On the strength of a five-under-par front nine, the 19-year-old Khonkaen native carded a final round 68 over the Orient (Beijing) Pearl Golf Country Club for a score of eight-under 208, four strokes better than fellow Thai Porani Chutichai (69) and overnight leader Yao Hsuan-yu (74) of Chinese-Taipei.

"This week my putting was very good. I only had one three-putt all week and I was able to save a lot of holes," Patcharajutar said. "Before the tournament I felt happy going in. Even if I didn't win, I was coming in as defending champion and was feeling good."

Starting the day with a two shot lead, Yao birdied the first hole to get to seven-under. Patcharajutar, the 2008 World Junior champion, birdied the second and got to within a stroke of the lead when Yao bogeyed the third.

The fourth hole proved the turning point as the big-hitting Patcharajutar found the green on 552-yard par-five in two and then made a 40-foot putt for a two-shot swing as Yao could only par. With a one shot lead, Patcharajutar then birdied the next hole and picked up another stroke at the par-three seventh to make the turn at 31 for a two-shot lead.

As Yao struggled to three-over on the back nine, Patcharajutar finished with a birdie three on the 11th hole and two late bogeys for the victory worth 7,500 dollars.

"Last night I called my coach and he told me to be conservative on the par-fives and play safe, but I must be aggressive on the par-fours," said Patcharajutar who first started playing golf at 12 with her policeman father. "After the fourth hole, that was really the changing point as from there on every hole I think I can make birdie.

"I'm looking forward to the Yantai (Yangmadao) Challenge. Last year the weather was bad, so hopefully in two weeks it will be better and I'll have another chance to win."

A tearful Yao who confidently predicted she would beat Patcharajutar following the second round, said "everything" had gone wrong for her in the final round, including a double-bogey seven on the last.

"Today was not good," said the 18-year-old who helped Chinese Taipei to a team bronze medal at last year's Asian Games. "My driving, irons and putting didn't work out. Maybe it is not my time to win my first tournament. I feel disappointed because I was so close to winning."

China's Tian Hong (71) was equal fourth, six shots off the pace, while compatriots Ren Xiaozheng (73) and first-round leader Pan Yanhong (73) were a shot further back. Chinese veteran Yang Hongmei playing in the final group, closed with bogeys on three of her last four holes for a 74, tied for equal seventh with Thailand's Tanaporn Kongkiakrai (71).

The third year of the CLPGA Tour features 16 events culminating in the 250,000-dollar Hyundai China Ladies Open this December in Xiamen, Fujian province. The next tournament is the Yantai Yangmadao Challenge, June 10-12, in Shandong province.

Source: Xinhua
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