HAIKOU, Jan. 17 (Xinhua) -- Catherine Lau set the early pace at the China LPGA Tour Qualifying Tournament on Wednesday as the South African teenager opened with a first round score of three-under 69 under wet and windy conditions on the Hainan island.
With 30 full-time playing cards up for grabs for the 2019 season at the 54-hole tournament, the competition was intense among the record 120 player field competing at the Shenzhou Golf Club West Course. Hwang Yeh-na of South Korea was one shot back after a two-under 70, tied with Thailand's Manuschaya Zeemakorn and Chinese Taipei's Tai Chia-wen.
Zhang Yue was the top Chinese mainland player as the 17-year-old amateur shot 71 to sit equal fifth with Malaysian Genevieve Ling and the Japanese pair of Shiho Kawasaki and Nao Honda.
Pretoria native Lau started her round at the 10th hole and came out firing in carding four birdies over her front nine to make the turn at 32. After getting to five-under with a birdie two at the 158-yard third hole, she dropped her only strokes of the day with bogey fours at the fifth and eighth holes.
"My driver and shots to the greens were stable, the putter was feeling really good today. The 18th hole was excellent as I holed it from eight yards out for birdie," said the 18-year-old, a winner of two national championships in South Africa.
"The wind definitely affected me but it's okay. Tomorrow I will try to shoot one or two under."
Manuschaya, a second-year pro who last March won the first leg of the Singha-Sat Tour as an amateur at Royal Hills, played steady yet conservative golf in the inclement conditions. She carded four birdies and a double-bogey five at the 181-yard 10th hole where her tee shot found a greenside bunker.
"This course is very beautiful but it was also very windy and the bunkers are so high," said the 20-year-old. "I was thinking play for even-par today. My driving performance was very good and I chipped in at the seventh hole for a birdie. That gave me confidence. Tomorrow I will think like today, not expect too much and just play my game."
Hainan native Zhang held it together during her early morning start to post a round that featured four birdies and three bogeys, including one at the 393-yard, par-four last.
"The shots to the greens and driver were good, accurate and stable. My putting from five-six yards out I did not handle well. I missed some birdie opportunities," said the 17-year-old who earned her full playing card last year when she finished second at the Qualifying Tournament.
"Tomorrow I am starting from the 10th hole and I need to be careful of the wind direction and distance. I hope to pay more attention to putting, to be calmer and read the lines well, be steady," she said.