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Yang blazes to glory in Beijing

YANG Taoli ensured a homegrown talent lifts the inaugural title of the China LPGA Tour yesterday when the Sichuan native came out blazing to win the US$50,000 Beijing Orient Pearl Championship in a dominant performance.

After leading Thailand's Porani Chutichai by one stroke going into the final round at the Beijing Orient Tianxing Golf and Country Club, the 26-year-old Yang carded three birdies in her first five holes en route to a 2-under 70 and a 5-stroke victory. She finished with a 54-hole aggregate score of seven-under 209.

Yang, who earned US$7,500 for the victory and will go to California next week to train in an attempt to qualify for the US Women's Open, called the victory a relief after finishing runner-up or equal runner-up six times over the past two years.

"After so many (runner-up) finishes I'm excited to win this historic event," she said. "This is the first event of the first season of the new China LPGA Tour. That's something I'll have forever ... The key point to the victory is my mental game. I think I have grown up."

With four bogeys against two birdies on the day, Porani could never challenge Yang and struggled to a 2-over 74 for second place. Chinese veteran Yang Hongmei, the first round co-leader, rebounded from a disastrous 77 on Thursday to close with a 70 for third place. Shanghai-based Shen Yanhua was fourth following a 74.

Top amateurs

National team player Li Chuxin (73) and Pan Yanghong (72), the winner of the Monday qualifier, were the top amateurs, 12 shots off the pace.

Yang Taoli, who made the turn at 33, found trouble early in her back nine when she double-hit for a double-bogey six when her awkward stance was too close to a tree. She then bogeyed the 12th hole before rebounding with a birdie at the next. She ended her round with a birdie, draining a 10-foot putt much to the delight of the gallery.

Porani called her playing partner full value for the win.

"Yang Taoli started so well and it was evident it would be difficult to catch her. On the par-fives she can make birdie because her second shot is to the green. She's a bit intimidating and a really good player."

Elsewhere, Sweden's Helen Alfredsson shot a career-best 10-under 62 and took a 2-stroke lead over Brittany Lincicome after the opening round of the Sybase Classic in New Jersey on Thursday.

Alfredsson's round was the lowest on tour this year, and it left three-time defending champion Lorena Ochoa nine shots out of the lead.

Suzann Pettersen of Norway was 3 shots behind Alfredsson at 7 under and a shot ahead of Oh Young-ji of South Korea after Karrie Webb, Michelle Wie, Natalie Gulbis and Paula Creamer were all at 2-under.


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