Trio shares Xiamen lead

South African Connie Chen, Belgium’s Chloe Leurquin and Chinese-Taipei amateur Cheng Ssu-Chia share a one-shot lead on six-under-par going into Sunday’s Xiamen Open final round at Orient Golf and Country Club in China.

Leurquin and Cheng were four under for the day and round one leader Chen two under.

11 players are separated by only three shots at the top of the leader board. Scot Vikki Laing and Australian Nikki Garrett are five under while only two shots off the lead are Liz Young, Beth Allen, Minea Blomqvist, Marion Ricordeau and Alexandra Vilatte in a tie for sixth on four under par.

Ladies European Tour rookie Leurquin had been seven under approaching her last hole however she bogeyed the par-5 ninth to drop into a share of the lead.

The 24-year-old from Royal Waterloo Golf Club said: “Last week, I was tied for the lead for a few holes and then I screwed up as I had a few doubles in a row, but this is the first time I’ve finished my round in the lead.

“I was playing pretty solid the first nine, so two birdies and one bogey on nine. Then I had four birdies in a row. I had quite long putts on one and two and then chipped in on three. I put it very close on four so that was a real birdie and then I had a couple of stupid bogeys after but it was good.”

Leurquin is currently lying in 99th on the LET order of merit and she needs to finish inside the top 80 on the season-ending exemption ranking, once those who have played fewer than six events are removed, to keep her full tour card for 2015.

Last year, she won the final event on the LET Access Series, the Mineks Ladies Classic in Turkey, to gain her playing rights for the 2014 Ladies European Tour, therefore she knows she has the guts to succeed.

She added: “I need to work a little bit to keep my card for next year so hopefully this tournament will be enough so that I don’t have pressure in India and Dubai.

“I’m playing well at the moment so a win is on my mind but I’ll just try to play like I did today and yesterday, just play for the green and two putt, or one putt if it falls in.”

Chen, playing out of Imperial Springs in Guangdong, China, was bogey-free with two birdies on the sixth and 11th holes. The 22-year-old commented: “Today my long game wasn’t that great and I struggled off the tee on the front nine. I got it together on the back nine.

“I hit a bad 3-wood on the 12th hole but my putt on that hole was on the lip and it dropped after five seconds on the lip, so that was quite entertaining. I had seven metres up the hill for par and it sat on the lip I swear for five seconds and everyone was like, ‘what?'”

High school student Cheng, 17, has already won three times on the professional Taiwan Ladies Professional Golf Association (TLPGA) Tour, including two titles last year and one this year. In August, she lost a play-off at the China Trust Ladies Open on the China LPGA Tour and she recently tied for 15th in the Fubon LPGA Taiwan Championship presented by Taiwan Mobile Info on the LPGA in October.

She said: “I feel pretty confident in myself because I think I’ve played good golf this week and my shots and putting are really good.”
LET No.2 Charley Hull is only four shots adrift on two under par after a 69, which included seven birdies and four bogeys.

Hull said: “I’ll just keep on playing golf the same as I played the back nine. I came in with 32 so I’m pretty happy and I’ll just carry that form into tomorrow.”

More warm and sunny conditions are forecast for the final round with highs of 27 Celsius.