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Ryu Holds Nerve for Epic One-Shot Victory
So Yeon Ryu of S. Korea displays the winner’s trophy after her one-shot triumph in the World Ladies Championship at Mission Hills Haikou in China. Photograph by Paul Lakatos for Mission Hills

Korean world No.8 So Yeon Ryu proved herself both sage and sensation as she captured the US$600,000 World Ladies Championship Sunday with a one-stroke victory over compatriot and world No.2 Inbee Park at Mission Hills Haikou in China.

The 24-year-old Ryu had on the first day of the event predicted she would win it this year and on the last day she duly delivered, recovering from a near-disastrous double-bogey six on the seventh hole to pick up three birdies down the back nine.

They included a three on the par-four 17th on Mission Hills Haikou’s signature par-73 Blackstone Course that put Ryu one stroke ahead of Park – a position she held to the clubhouse after matching her rival’s par on the last.

“I always love coming here. This is such a great resort and such a great golf course,” said Ryu, who signed for a four-under 69 and a winning total of 13-under 279. “I am just so honoured to have won here. I came third here last year and just really wanted to win.

“It was exciting playing today with Inbee and Suzann [Pettersen], who are two of the best players in the world. That really kept me on my game all day.

“I started with bogey and then had a double on seven and I think the important thing after the double was that I didn’t think about winning. I just thought about each shot and each hole, not about the final result. I think that helped me concentrate on my goal. As I said when I came here, I wanted so much to win this tournament and now I have.”

Korean duo Inbee Park (left) and So Yeon Ryu (right) are pictured with Mission Hills Group Vice Chairman Tenniel Chu after winning the team event in the World Ladies Championship at Mission Hills Haikou in China. Photograph by Paul Lakatos for Mission Hills

Ryu had watched on in 2014 as Park and Pettersen fought it out on the final day. She finished third but was never really able to put in a sustained challenge as Park won by five strokes from Pettersen.

Those two had finished in reverse positions in 2013 – Pettersen winning in front of Park – and at the opening press conference here at Mission Hills Haikou, Ryu had vowed to break the pair’s hold on the event.

“I came here confident in my game and determined to win,” said Ryu. “I knew I had to make a small putt on the last for par and to win. It didn’t look like a hard putt but my hands were shaking. Somehow I guided it and I am just so happy I made that putt.”

It was a case of what might have been for Park who had a solid final-day two-under 71. She took consolation in winning the unique team event that forms part of the World Ladies Championship for Korea with Ryu and she praised her close friend’s performance across the week.

“I always enjoy playing with So Yeon and she played really great today. I am just really happy for her,” said Park. “I knew winning this event would mean a lot to her and it means a lot winning again for Korea. We Korean players love this course and we love coming here to Mission Hills to play.”

A birdie on the last was the highlight of the day for world No.5 Pettersen who otherwise just couldn’t get the putts to fall – something that affected 19-year-old Chinese star Janet Lin Xiyu on the last.

She needed a short birdie putt to finish outright third, but missed. The pair finished tied on 10-under, with last season’s China LPGA Tour Order of Merit winner Lin looking ahead to the rest of the season, her second as a professional.

“It wasn’t the greatest end and I had birdied that hole on the second and third days so I think I should have again,” said Lin. “But overall I am happy with the way I played and I am excited about the season ahead.

Another shining light for China this week was 13-year-old starlet Ye Lei who took the World Ladies Championship’s amateur title in her first appearance at a Ladies European Tour event.

“It was just a really great experience for me and one of my goals here was to finish as leading amateur,” said Ye. “It has been really nice to play with the top players in the world and to see what it takes to be a professional.”

Mission Hills Group Vice Chairman Mr Tenniel Chu was on hand at the presentation ceremony and said the results showed the future of women’s golf – and especially women’s golf in Asia – was in safe hands.

He commented: “We have been treated to some fantastic golf all week and what can you say about the Korean players? They just love coming here to Mission Hills – and winning.”

The World Ladies Championship is co-sponsored by global services company American Express; premium Italian lifestyle brand FILA; world-renowned bathroom brand TOTO; Dole, the world's largest producer and marketer of fresh fruit and vegetables; premium beer brand Stella Artois; premium sparkling fruit juice Appletiser; sparkling natural mineral water San Pellegrino; and Jacobsen turf equipment.

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