Korea’s Minsol Kim made a great start towards making it a Korean double in two weeks in Singapore when she grabbed the opening honours at the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific (WAAP) championship, taking a one-shot lead with a five-under-par 67 round on Thursday.
At Singapore Island Country Club, Kim, ranked 14th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking® (WAGR), made five birdies, while an early eagle on the 4th hole was negated by a late double bogey on the par-4 16th.
Last week, Jin Young Ko – Kim’s mentor, idol and roommate during the national team’s winter training in Vietnam earlier this year – won the HSBC Women’s Championship title on the LPGA Tour in the Island Nation. Kim revealed she joked with the world number three professional that she’d attempt to win the WAAP title.
One shot behind Kim, at four-under-par 68, were Zixin Ni of China, Navaporn Soontreeyapas of Thailand and Sophie Han of Hong Kong, China. Japan’s Sayaka Teraoka was joined in fifth position at three-under 69 by Eila Galitsky of Thailand and Wai Chung Virginie Ding of Hong Kong, China.
China’s Yujie Liu, the youngest player in the championship at 12-years-old, was also the only player to have completed her round without a bogey, shooting a two-under-par 70 to finish in tied eighth place.
It was a brilliant start by the Korean star, who was five-under-par through seven holes with birdies on the 2nd, 6th and 7th, apart from the eagle on the 4th, where she hit her 4-hybrid from 190 yards to four feet. The double on the 16th was disappointing as she hit a good tee shot, but pulled her second and three-putted after chipping to the green.
Kim said: “I was hitting most of my shots left until yesterday. But it was much better today and I especially hit my iron shots well. I tried to hit my driver confidently and it was good. The putts also fell. I just started telling myself ‘let’s believe in the swing’. But it is just the first round of the championship. Still three rounds left. I hope to continue to move forward towards winning the championship.”
Soontreeyapas missed the cut when the championship was played in her home country, but the 17-year-old from Thailand made up for some of that disappointment with a sparkling round of seven birdies. “I learned a lot from my experience last year,” said Soontreeyapas. “I have a goal to be the champion this year.”
Han, who finished tied 29th last year in Siam Country Club, made three birdies and a bogey on either half of the golf course, and said: “I’ve been preparing for this championship for probably two or three months, so I’m really looking forward to having a better score here.”
China’s Ni, who was tied 13th as a 14-year-old last year, set herself up for another fantastic finish with a 68 start. “My putting was pretty good. I had only one three-putt, but it was because my iron shot was bad and I got a putt of nearly 60 feet,” said Ni.
The Beijing-based Liu was impressive in her debut. She made birdies on the 6th and 11th holes but was happier with her par save on the 5th, where she holed an 18-footer putt to ensure a bogey-free card. “The score is pretty good because I played bogey-free and got two birdies. My full swings and chipping and also putting, there were no big mistakes. So everything was pretty good,” said Liu after her round.
Chinese Taipei’s Ting-Hsuan Huang, the defending champion, also shot a two-under-par 70, while Japan’s Rin Yoshida, the highest-ranked player in the field at world number four, struggled to a three-over-par 75.
In the first four editions, players from Thailand (Atthaya Thitikul), Japan (Yuka Yasuda and Mizuki Hashimoto) and Chinese Taipei (Ting-Hsuan Huang) have held aloft the stunning trophy.
The WAAP has been developed by The R&A and the APGC to inspire future generations of women golfers. The R&A is supported by championship event partners that share its commitment to developing golf in the Asia-Pacific. The Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific championship is proudly supported by Rolex, Nippon Kabaya Ohayo Holdings, Hana Financial Group and Samsung.
For more information on the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific, visit the championship website at www.randa.org/WAAP.