Michelle stuns field for breakthrough win

Michelle Koh lifts the CTBC Shanghai Ladies Classic trophy ©CLPGA Tour
Michelle Koh lifts the CTBC Shanghai Ladies Classic trophy ©CLPGA Tour

SHANGHAI [China]: Michelle Koh closed with a sizzling final round six-under 66 to capture her first professional title win at the CTBC Shanghai Ladies Classic on Sunday.

Trailing by four strokes at the start of the day, the 24-year-old played spoiler at the RM800,000 (RM483,000) China LPGA tournament, finishing at 10-under 206 to clinch a two-shot victory over joint overnight leader Cheng Ssu-chia (72) of Chinese Taipei.

Chinese veterans Yan Panpan (69), Pan Yanhong (69) and Ye Ziqi (72) were equal third on 209 alongside Korean Jang So-young (70) and Titiya Plucksataporn (66) of Thailand.

The tournament itself was a historic, given that it featured a strong field of Taiwan LPGA professionals playing on the Chinese’s mainland for the first time.

Michelle, the first Malaysian to win on the China LPGA Tour in its seven-year history, came out firing with six birdies through the first 12 holes for a flawless display.

“My putter should get the credit. I didn’t hit so close but I made some nice putts,” said the second-year pro from Kuantan, who played collegiate golf at Campbell University in the United States.

“At the turn, I heard I was tied for the lead, but I just played my game. On the back nine I made two more birdies. I watched the leaderboard closely at the last two holes. I felt a little bit of pressure. But I was pleased that I could play with two winners – Yan Panpan and Pan Yanhong. They were nice and said some inspiring words to me.

“I’ve really stepped up a notch this year. It has taken me a year to find my groove on the play-for-pay ranks and being in contention regularly has definitely pushed my level of confidence up. I knew that if I was patient, the win would come eventually but to conjure up a six-stroke turnaround for my breakthrough title is something special,” added Koh, who dedicated the win to her father, Ricky, who has been on her bag.

Rookie Cheng stumbled in her quest for her first pro title as the 18-year-old could not mount a challenge playing in the final group with overnight co-leader Supamas Sangchan (75) of Thailand. Sangchan finished equal eighth at five strokes off the pace in a group of five players that included top Chinese rookie Shi Yuting (73).

Leading results
(Chinese unless stated)
206 – Michelle Koh (MAS) 70-70-66
208 – Cheng Ssu-chia (TPE) 68-68-72
209 – Yan Panpan 70-70-69, Pan Yanhong 69-71-69, Titiya Plucksataporn (THA) 72-71-66, Ye Ziqi 70-67-72, Jang So-young (KOR) 72-67-70
211 – Shi Yuting 70-68-73, Narisara Kerdrit (THA) 72-72-67, Yu Pei-lin (TPE) 76-70-65, Wichanee Meechai (THA) 69-69-73, Supamas Sangchan (THA) 67-69-75
212 – Pannarat Thanapolboonyaras (THA) 67-73-72
213 – Thanuttra Boonraksasat (THA) 69-72
214 – Shih Huei-ju (TPE) 70-74-70, Ye Li-ying 71-72-71, Zhang Na 70-74-70, Wu Sha 73-71-70, Chen Liqing 70-71-73, Pimpadsorn Sangkagaro (THA) 74-70-70
215 – Kumi Uchiyama (JPN) 67-73-75, Tian Hong 70-70-75, Zhang Jienalin 71-71-73, Chen Yu-ju (TPE) 71-73-71