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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Chun-Wei Wu’s Epic Record Day at Women’s Amateur Asia

Chinese Taipei’s Chun-Wei Wu continued to set a sizzling pace on a record-breaking day three at the sixth Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific (WAAP) championship.

Revelling in the hot conditions at Siam Country Club (SCC), the 19-year-old shot a bogey-free six-under-par 66 over the Waterside Course to extend her advantage at the top of the leaderboard on a day of extraordinary scoring and incredible shots.

Two strokes clear at the start of the round, Wu’s 54-hole aggregate of 18-under-par 198 is four shots in front of her closest pursuer, Rianne Mikhaela Malixi of the Philippines, who fired a stunning nine-under-par 63, the lowest score in WAAP history.

On a dramatic day at the Pattaya course, Navaporn Soontreeyapas also wrote her name into the WAAP record books with a hole-in-one at the 16th. Remarkably, it was the 18-year-old’s second ace of the week, having achieved the feat on the 7th hole on day one. Her latest masterstroke vaulted her into joint-eighth place on nine-under 207.

Also with an eye on the big prize going into tomorrow’s final round are China’s Yahui Zhang (66) and Korean Hyosong Lee (67). They share third place on 203, one stroke ahead of fifth-placed Pimpisa Rubrong (68), who is aiming to maintain the proud Thailand record of having a player in the top-two in every edition of the championship. On 206 in joint-sixth spot are Korean Hyojin Yang and Australian Justice Bosio, who returned a 65.

But the player they’re all chasing is Wu, who could hardly contain her delight at her brief post-round television interview. “Incredible! Very excited … see you tomorrow,” said Wu, bidding to follow in the footsteps of compatriot Ting-Hsuan Huang, who triumphed when the WAAP was staged at this venue in 2022.

Despite a blister on her left foot and a couple of tentative strokes with the putter, Wu managed a second successive clean card. In 54 holes to date, her only dropped shot came at the 13th on day one.

Belying her position of 264th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking® (WAGR®), Wu once more immediately went hunting for birdies, picking up four shots in her first seven holes to extend her lead to six.

Seven pars followed before she came to life again at the shortened par-4 15th, two-putting for an easy birdie. She drained a 20-footer for another birdie at 17 and safely parred 18 to ensure a commanding position going into the final round.

Wu’s 198 aggregate bettered by three strokes the previous best three-round total at the WAAP, set by Thai Natthakritta Vongtaveelap at Abu Dhabi Golf Club in 2021.

Emerging from the pack to establish herself as Wu’s closest challenger is Malixi, the prodigiously talented 16-year-old who triumphed in the Australian Masters of the Amateurs last month and who was equal third here, alongside Hyosong Lee, in 2022

“It was pretty simple. Just very consistent throughout the round. Phenomenal iron play made things a lot easier. That was the key,” said Malixi, whose impeccable distance control with her approach shots set her up for seven one-putt birdies. For good measure, she holed out with her wedge approach for an eagle at the par-5 10th.

Of beating the WAAP’s single-round low-scoring record, she said, “It hasn’t sunk in yet, but I feel very grateful and honoured. This course really fits my eye.”

The par-3s, meanwhile, clearly suit the eyes of Soontreeyapas, who was shaking her head in disbelief after holing out with her seven-iron tee shot at the 160-yard 16th. It earned her a Samsung GalaxyS24 Ultra. “It’s impossible. So amazing. I’m in shock,” said the Thai national team player, who used a wedge to ace the 110-yard 7th on Thursday.

Eila Galitsky’s chances of becoming the first player to mount a successful title defence and have her name inscribed on the trophy on two occasions evaporated in the hot and humid conditions.

Joint first-round leader, the Thai dropped off the pace with a 75 on day two and was unable to regain the form that earned her victory at Singapore Island Country Club last year. She signed for a third-round even-par 72 and ended the day in joint 29th place on 214.

While one former champion was struggling with her game, another was rediscovering her touch. Japan’s Mizuki Hashimoto, triumphant in Abu Dhabi in 2021, carded a bogey-free 68 to go with earlier round of 70 and 71. At seven-under 209, she’s equal 13th going into the final round.

The winner tomorrow will be rewarded with starts in three major championships in 2024 – the AIG Women’s Open at St Andrews, the Amundi Evian Championship in France and the Chevron Championship in the United States of America.

She’ll also receive invitations to a handful of other elite championships such as the Hana Financial Group Championship, ISPS HANDA Women’s Australian Open, The 121st Women’s Amateur Championship and the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.

This week’s starting line-up consisted of 90 players representing 22 countries and territories. Among them are ten of the top-50 and 21 of the top-100 in the latest WAGR standings.

In the first five editions of the WAAP, players from Thailand (Atthaya Thitikul and Galitsky), Japan (Yuka Yasuda and Hashimoto) and Chinese Taipei (Huang) have held aloft the sought-after trophy.

The WAAP championship was developed by The R&A and the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC) to inspire future generations of women golfers. The R&A is supported by championship event partners that share its commitment to developing golf in the Asia-Pacific. The Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific championship is proudly supported by Hana Financial Group, ISPS Handa, Nippon Kabaya Ohayo Holdings, Puma, Samsung, Singha, Ricoh and Rolex.

For more information on the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific, visit the championship website at www.randa.org/WAAP

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