Amy Hong takes lead at WAAP in Japan
The players faced cold wind gusts of 24-28 mph, which occasionally exceeded 32mph. The morning drizzle brought the temperature down to 8 degrees Celsius but it felt like 5 degrees on the golf course with the wind chill factor.
Forty-five players were par or better on the opening day, but the best second-round score was a two-over-par 74 by Japan’s world No. 13 Yuka Yasuda.
Hong, 89th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), started the day at six-under-par and was two shots behind the overnight leader, Australia’s Becky Kay. By the time she made the turn at even-par, she was ahead by four shots. A closing birdie on the ninth hole finally gave her a day’s score of three-over-par 75 and a lead of two shots at three-under-par.
Kay, who sank a remarkable birdie putt on her final hole from 18 feet, signed for a seven-over-par 79. The fact that she fell only one place to tied second at one-under-par alongside reigning champion Atthaya Thitikul (78), just shows how tough the conditions were.
China’s Xiaowen Yin is in fourth place at even-par 144 after a five-over-par round two.
The back nine was a different story for the 16-year-old Hong, who made double-bogeys on the second and sixth holes.
“Today was so tough. I was so nervous when I was at the range. My palms tend to sweat and they felt frozen in the morning. I just kept asking my father (Tae-sik, who was caddying for her) to give me more jumpers. I had about six hot packs in my pockets to keep my hands warm,” said Hong, winner of the Australian Women’s Amateur Championship earlier this year.
“It was so difficult to hit my driver and irons well in the wind, so I concentrated more on my putting. I had just one three-putt, which I thought was good given the conditions. I did not see how the other players in my group were putting and I just focused on my own game.”
Thitikul managed to keep her title defense on track despite a round of 78. The Thai teenager was seven-over after 10 holes but made two birdies over the next seven holes before smashing her tee shot into the water on the par-4 ninth hole, closing with a bogey on the last.
“My round was just so so. It's not good, but it’s not really bad,” said the world No. 9.
“Those are really challenging conditions. I did not start too well, but I came back well over the back nine. My feel was back and that was really good.”
Kay, who shot the lowest round of the championship – an eight-under-par 64 on Thursday – said: “It was a bit of a struggle. I’ve played in a lot of cold places and today was something else. I’ve never been so cold in my life, and the wind was unbelievably strong.
“So, it was difficult. I probably could have holed some more putts but besides that, I don’t think I could have done much else.
“Having finished seven over, and still being in the mix, I’m not disappointed. I tried my best. I never gave up and I tried to stay warm, which wasn’t very possible, but I did my best.”
The cut was applied at 13-over par 157 and 51 players advanced to the weekend rounds.
The Championship has an ‘Elite’ status in the women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR). The starting field was 80 players from 19 countries, including 17 players ranked inside the top-100 of the WAGR. The champion will earn a spot in two of the five women’s majors – the AIG Women’s British Open and the Evian Championship. She will also receive an invite to the 2020 Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
The Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific championship has been developed by The R&A and Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC) to unearth emerging talent and provide a pathway for Asia’s elite women amateurs to emerge on the international stage.
The R&A launched the Women in Golf Charter last year and is committed to increasing the participation of women in the sport. The WAAP is one of several key championships conducted by the governing body and a significant initiative along with the APGC to drive the popularity of women’s golf in the region.
Kabaya Ohayo Group and Rolex are the championship’s Official Scoring Partners; Evian are Official Water Supplier and Galaxy is a Patron Partner. IMG are assisting with championship staging and TV broadcast.
For more information on the championship, visit the website at randa.org/WAAP. For updates, like the championship’s Facebook page and follow @WAAPGolf on Twitter and Instagram.
Entry to the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific championship is free of charge.