Chinese golfer gets maiden win in Zhuhai playoff as birthday present

photo: courtesy of China LPGA Tour

photo: courtesy of China LPGA Tour

Chinese golfer Cao Xinyu had a memorable 18th birthday celebration on Friday as the rookie pro defeated amateur Liu Yujie in a second-hole playoff to win her maiden China LPGA Tour title in a wet and wild finale to the Golf Liquor Guangdong Women’s Open.


After heavy rain forced the suspension of play for nearly an hour, both Cao and 14-year-old Liu returned to the Zhuhai Lakewood Golf Club composite layout to complete their third round. With each closing with a two-under-par 70, the two players finished deadlocked on seven-under 209.


In the playoff, both players made two putts for par on the 401-yard 18th hole in the first hole of sudden death. Returning to the same hole again, Liu put her tee shot right into the rough. With Cao safely on the green in two, Liu put her approach to within seven yards of the pin after missing the green. She would then miss her par putt. Sitting 60 feet from the pin, Cao made no mistake in getting down in two putts to secure the win.


“I didn’t believe in birthday luck until I made it today,” said Shanghai native Cao, who earned 60,000 yuan ($8,278.44) for the win. “It’s a coming-of-age ceremony for me. It’s my maiden win, which boosts my confidence. I believe that I can have good finishes next week in Singapore and Beijing Pine Valley at the end of this month.”


Pakin Kawinpakorn (69) finished third at two shots back as the Thai stumbled to a bogey five on the final hole, where she needed a birdie to join the playofsf. Her compatriot, Dolnapa Zukphokinvanich, was two shots further back in fourth after a final round 70.


Cao, who joined the paid ranks earlier this year after posting five top-five finishes against the pros last season as an amateur on the CLPGA Tour, was three shots behind playing partner Liu going into the 15th hole. It was there at the 540-yard hole that she started an amazing run of three consecutive birdies highlighted by a 45-foot birdie putt at the 16th hole.


With the two players even at seven-under going into the final hole of regulation, Cao nearly lost when her approach missed the green landing 45 yards short. After her third shot went over the pin, she then made a dramatic 25-foot downhill putt to force the playoff as Liu two-putted for par from 45 feet.


“The 18th hole was a beast,” said Cao. 

“At the second extra hole, I really captured this unreal win. I won plenty of times at junior events but this is different. It’s the toughest win for me.”


Liu, daughter of table-tennis great Liu Guoliang, the two-time gold medallist at the 1996 Olympics, missed another opportunity to get her maiden win against a professional. Two weeks ago, the teenager was the overnight co-leader going into the final round at the Beijing Women’s Challenge where she finished equal 10th.


Her round today included four birdies over the first 11 holes and two bogeys.

“After Beijing, I knew how to play in the final round. I played well today. I can get full marks from the way I played. I made my best efforts, especially in such poor conditions,” said Liu, a winner of eight events on the amateur circuit over the past three years.


“I am excited to see my progress. It’s my breakthrough. I also saw my deficiencies in this event, which would be good for my future. Hats off to sister Xinyu. She played well and deserved this win.”


Pakin, who started the day three shots off the lead, made a move up the leaderboard immediately when she sank a five-foot birdie putt at the 347-yard opening hole. After holding it together in the wet conditions to post three more birdies and get close, the final hole proved her nemesis.


“I didn’t look at the leaderboard because I didn’t want to put a lot of pressure on myself,” said the 32-year-old Kawin, winner of the 2018 Zhuhai Heritage. “My goal was to play my best out there but a bogey [on the final hole] was the best I could do.”


Zhuhai Lakewood Golf Club is a 6,460-yard, par-72 composite course featuring nine holes from the Norman Course and nine from the Lakes Course.


Global Times