Korean Ayean Cho, 17, was in pole position at seven-under at the end of a rain-interrupted third day at the inaugural Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific at Sentosa Golf Club in Singapore.
Cho was two-under for the day after 14 holes when play stopped at 7.20pm local time due to fading light. Action was suspended for most of the afternoon due to heavy rain and the threat of lightning before resuming at 6.20pm.
Thai starlet Atthaya Thitikul, also playing in the final flight, was six-under overall along with Japan’s Yuna Nishimura, who was playing in the second-last group and had three holes left to play.
Saso makes move
Yuka Saso, the Philippines’ top-ranked amateur, made a major move with four birdies putting her four-under after 17 holes and five-under overall, level with compatriot Lois Kaye Go, reigning Japan Women’s Amateur champion Yuka Yasuda and Korean Yunji Jeong, who all had yet to finish their rounds.
Wenyung Keh, New Zealand’s top-ranked amateur, shot a three-under 68 over the 6,456-yard New Tanjong course to post the clubhouse lead at four-under, while six Koreans and six Japanese featured in the top 20 at close of play. The third round will resume at 7.20am on Saturday.
Cho, Thitikul and Nishimura all shared dreams of winning the 72-hole stroke play event and earning places in two of this year’s major championships, the ANA Inspiration and Ricoh Women’s British Open, as well as next week’s 11th HSBC Women’s World Championship, also at Sentosa Golf Club.
Cho laments rain stoppage
Cho, who said her career ambition is to win the LPGA Tour Order of Merit, started the day one behind Thitikul and Jeong and took the outright lead before rain stopped play at 12.40pm and held onto it after play resumed.
“Seeing my name on top of the leaderboard doesn’t mean too much because we haven’t finished the round. I feel a little bit sad because my rhythm and my shots were all good so I really didn’t want to stop,” Cho said.
Cho’s experience of pro events includes playing in the LPGA Volvik Championship and she was low amateur in the LPGA Tour’s New Zealand Women’s Open last October, while last month she won the Danny Lee Springfield Open in New Zealand and finished runner-up in the Australian Women’s Amateur. However, she has never played in a major championship.
“If I could win, this would be the biggest achievement in my career. And the fact I could win and play in two majors …. I’d feel like I can fly! I can’t find the right word to describe how happy I’d be,” said Cho.
attaya eyes return to majors
Atthaya, first-round leader after an opening 65, played in two majors last year, the Ricoh Women’s British Open and The Evian Championship in France, and the 15-year-old sensation said she would be thrilled to earn a return to the UK.
“If I could win here, it would be nice to go back to the Ricoh Women’s British Open. My target would be to make the cut this time and learn some new experiences. I made the cut at Evian,” said the reigning SEA Games gold medallist, who last year became the youngest player to win a Ladies European Tour event.
“In the majors, I hit the same distance as the pros, I hit it long enough, but their short games and putting are much better than mine. Tomorrow I just need to focus on my own game.”
Nisihmura targets major debut
Nishimura, Japan’s second-ranked amateur, was also excited about the possibility of winning and making her major championship debut.
“I felt good today, but short putts were not so good. I’m happy to be just one off the lead, but today was tough as it was a long day, a lot of waiting, but we just have to keep going,” said Nishimura, who had five birdies and three bogeys in her 15 holes.
“It’s possible to win, of course. I’ve never played in a major so it’s a dream to play in one.”
Malayans remain upbeat
Natasha Oon, who has played the last two editions of the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia, continued to lead the Malaysian contingent and the 16-year-old was still positive despite dropping back to four-over overall with one hole still to play.
“Yeah, I’m still in the top 20! I’m feeling exhausted after this week and my dad wasn’t feeling very well today so I had to switch caddie halfway through. I felt a little bit better but my Dad is always the best caddie I could ever have,” said Oon, whose mother is also following her.
“I started not decent, the middle wasn't decent, but I finished decent. So, looking back, there’s a bad day, but at least I recovered. I hope I can bring the spirit that I had after the delay to the next round and try to finish with a low score of the week. I’d like to finish this week on a good note and a happy day.”
Home hope Chen
Callista Chen, the highest-ranked Singaporean in the field, birdied 18 to post a 74 and lie five-over, sharing 21st spot and still on track to meet her target of a top-20 finish.
“I hit my wedges a little better, but I’m hitting it not great, so I hit a few wild shots left and right but at least they were in play. The wide fairways are quite generous here,” said the 19-year-old Chen, who hit the event’s first-ever tee-shot off hole one on Wednesday.
“I’m hoping to get my driving sorted out tomorrow. I’m still hitting it pretty well but just hoping for more putts to drop. I need to stay patient and let the golf do its own thing and not force a score. I’m still aiming for a top-20 finish – I’m borderline now – but a red number tomorrow would be a bonus.”
The original field started with 83 players representing 18 nations, with 48 aged 18 or under, and 53 made the halfway cut. Two 13-year-olds made the cut: Shannon Tan, who joined Chen as the two Singaporeans to make the cut, and Chia-yen Wu from Chinese Taipei who made global headlines last year when she became the youngest-ever US Amateur semi-finalist.
The winner will earn invitations to both the ANA Inspiration (29 March-1 April) at Mission Hills Country Club in California, USA, and the Ricoh Women’s British Open (2-5 August) at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club in Lancashire, England, as well as next week’s 11th HSBC Women’s World Championship, also at Sentosa Golf Club.
The Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific championship has been developed by the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC) and The R&A to nurture talent and provide a pathway for the region’s elite female amateurs to the international stage.