KirkwoodGolf: Boutier and Meechai share first-round lead in Sanya

Friday, November 17, 2017

Boutier and Meechai share first-round lead in Sanya

SANYA, China, November 17, 2017 – Rookie professional Celine Boutier of France and Wichanee Meechai of Thailand fired five-under-par 67s to share the first-round lead in the Sanya Ladies Open at Yalong Bay Golf Club in Hainan, China.

They hold a one stroke lead over nine other players: Marianne Skarpnord, Prima Thammaraks, Valdis Thora Jonsdottir, Yan-Hong Pan, Kristen Farmer, Lee-Anne Pace, Solar Lee and Marta Sanz Barrio.

Boutier has only played in two other Ladies European Tour tournaments this season, finishing tied for 11th in the Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open and tied for 6th in the Hero Women’s Indian Open over the last fortnight.

She spent most of her time on the US Symetra Tour, where she has won two titles, collecting trophies at the Self Regional Healthcare Foundation Women’s Health Classic and the Sioux Falls GreatLIFE Challenge, which locked up her place on the LPGA Tour for the 2018 season.

After carding five birdies on the Robert Trent Jones-designed, USGA standard Yalong Bay course on Friday, the Duke University graduate said that she felt her Stateside experience was an advantage.

“I think this course is similar to US courses, because of the Bermuda grass,” said the 24-year-old, from Montrouge, who is in China for the first time. “We don’t really find this type of grass in Europe. Out on the course, you need to know how to chip out of this rough, which can be tricky. When you putt you have to pay attention to the grain for the speed and the line.”

Reflecting on her first round, she added: “It was a very steady round and started pretty slowly. I didn’t make a birdie until my ninth and I only shot one-under on my front nine. Then I made four birdies on my back nine, which is the front nine of the course. I feel like I had a lot of opportunities all day long and I just dropped a couple of putts, which made a big difference to my score card.”

Co-leader Meechai is making her fourth appearance in the tournament and the LPGA player also felt at home on the Bermuda, picking up six birdies and one dropped shot at the short fifth.
“It was pretty nice weather today and I felt good about my game, so I hit it close and made some putts,” said Meechai, who chipped in for birdie on 17. “I expect to win this tournament because I want to give myself confidence before heading to the Final Stage of LPGA Q-School next week.”
Of the other players in contention, South African Lee-Anne Pace, a two-time winner of the event, in 2010 and 2013, who also won the 2014 Blue Bay LPGA event in Hainan, rattled in seven birdies and three bogeys to put herself into position for the weekend.
The 36-year-old South African said afterwards: “It’s always nice to come back here and I really enjoy playing on this course. It feels a bit like home because I’ve won three times on this island. It seems like it’s a lucky place for me, so I really hope I can win.”

Scot Pamela Pretswell Asher is on 1 under (71) and Michele Thomson on +1 (73)