World No.35 Lee Jung-Min of South Korea stormed to her eighth career title with a one stroke victory over compatriots Lee Seung-Hyun, Kim Bo-Kyung and Ji Han Sol in the World Ladies Championship at Mission Hills Resort Dongguan in China.
Despite dropping two strokes in the last three holes, eight birdies in a final round 66 was just enough for Lee to hold on as her closest challengers all blew their chances in damp and testing conditions on the Olazabal Course.
It was a nerve biting finish as the clubhouse leader Lee dropped into a three-way share of the lead with namesake Lee and Ji at nine-under-par after making bogey on the final hole. She then watched as Lee then made the same mistake.
After Kim ended on eight under par, Ji needed to birdie the difficult par-4 18th to tie. Although she hit an excellent approach shot that just edged the hole, she pushed her birdie putt of 12 feet wide of the hole, meaning that Lee could take home the individual title and €95,231.85 in prize money.
There was double cause for celebration as Lee also won the concurrent team competition with partner Ko Jin-Young. An aggregate score of 12-under-par put the South Korean pair 15 strokes ahead of the French duo Gwladys Nocera and Céline Herbin, with Chinese Taipei duo Lin Tzi-Chi and Kuo Ai-Chen five strokes further behind in third.
“I was very surprised to win because I didn’t feel that I played my best and I wasn’t in the leading group,” said Lee, 24, who earned three titles on the Korean LPGA Tour in 2015, having turned professional in 2009. “My main goal this year is to get my best ever score on the KLPGA Tour.”
Lee completed nine holes of her third round earlier in the morning and started the final round three shots off the lead, but overtook her rivals with birdies on the third, fourth, sixth, ninth, 11th, 13th, 14th and 15th holes.
Joint runner-up Kim had seven birdies in a final round 69 while Lee Seung-Hyun, a three-time winner on the Korean LPGA Tour, returned a final round 71 along with the first round leader Ji.
Another South Korean player, Oh Ji-Hyun, finished outright fifth on seven-under-par, while China’s Liu Yu and Chamchoi Saraporn of Thailand tied for sixth place.
Becky Morgan of Wales was the best placed Brit. She shared ninth on three-under with South Koreans Ko, Jung Hee Won and Cho Jeong Min. It was a week of contrasting fortunes for the Morgan who started with a first round 78 before shooting an impressive 65 in her third round.
This was the first edition of the World Ladies Championship to be sanctioned by the Korean LPGA Tour as well as the Ladies European Tour and China LPGA and resulted in nine KLPGA players in the top 12 places in total.
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