Ainil claims Taiwan breakthrough

Ainil Johani Abu Bakar receives the trophy for winning the KENDA Tire TLPGA
Ainil Johani Abu Bakar receives the trophy for winning the KENDA Tire TLPGA

Taipei: Lady professional Ainil Johani Abu Bakar claimed her maiden professional title after holding on for a two-stroke victory at the KENDA Tire TLPGA Open on Friday.

Despite dropping two late bogeys for a closing two-over 74, the 23-year-old improved on her overnight lead to end her campaign at Taipei Golf Club with a four-under 212 overall and walk home NT$600,000 ( RM64,345) richer.

Local favourites Liu Yi-Chen (75) and Lin Tzu-Chi (70) settled for second and third respectively in the NT$3 million Taiwan LPGA event co-sanctioned by the Ladies Asian Golf Tour.

It has been a long time coming for  who has struggled to make inroads since joining the paid ranks in late 2010 on the back of a promising amateur career. She follows in the footsteps of Jean Chua, who was the last Malaysian to triumph on the regional ladies’ circuit when she won the 2009 Thailand LPGA Open.

“I am thrilled to bits. It’s been an awesome week for me but more importantly, a win finally,” said Ainil via email from Taipei. “After yesterday’s round, I knew the opportunity was there for the taking and I’m really glad that I stayed calm and made it happen,” said the former national,  who had earlier set a new course record with a flawless second round seven-under 65.

“The course was super tight and I drove the ball straight all week, stayed on the fairways and drained some great putts. Even today, I was level par for much of the day but it was a tough finish when I dropped shots on the 17th and 18th. The good thing was I had done enough to coast home safely,” she added.

Ainil paid tribute to her family and coach Tony Maloney for their enduring support. “They say good things happen in Ramadhan and I’m sure that this victory means a lot to my family, especially my parents who have always had me in their prayers. I can’t say enough about Tony – he has really helped me over the last few years when things were not happening and I really appreciate his patience,” shared Ainil.

The other Malaysian in the field, rookie Aretha Pan Herng settled for a share of 46th on the back of rounds of 77, 76 and 79.

Leading final round scores
212 – Ainil Johani Abu Bakar 73-65-74
214 – Liu Yi-Chen (TPE) 70-69-75
215 – Lin Tzu-Chi (TPE) 69-76-70, Chung Ye Na (KOR) 73-70-72
216 – Hsieh Yu Ling (TPE) 71-71-74
218 – Lu Ya Huei (TPE) 73-70-75, Wei Yun-Jye (TPE) 70-73-75
219 – Chien Pei-Yun (TPE) 69-72-78
220 – Saraporn Chamchoi (THA) 71-74-75
221 – Cheng Meng Chu (TPE) 72-75-74