Merit prize up for grabs in Asian ladies’ finale


A strong line-up made final preparations on Tuesday for the season-ending Binhai Ladies Open, where the order of merit title is up for grabs. American Libby Smith leads the Ladies Asian Golf Tour money list with 17,803 dollars, but with 230,000 dollars’ prize-money here the race is wide open. The order of merit winner will earn a place in the Korean Ladies Open while the victor in this week’s tri-sanctioned tournament will get a two-year exemption for the KLPGA Tour. “With the strongest field out there for the finale, it all depends who can hang in there and play consistently,” said Smith, who won the Hong Kong leg in February. “I will like to believe that I can match my words and give my best before going back to play on the US LPGA Tour.” Victory for Russamee Gulynamitta, currently fourth in the money list, would end a three-year title drought as well as clinching the order of merit title for the Thai. “Between last year and now, I finished runner-up in four tournaments and I hope to put a stop to it. It’s time to win,” she said. Other leading contenders include Taiwan’s Wei Yun Jye, the only player in the field of 133 to have a world ranking (35). Choi Na-yeon is another to watch with two victories on the KLPGA Tour last season and a current third ranking on the Korean money list. Macau winner Natalie Tucker, currently fifth on the Asian order of merit, is also in the field while host China will bank heavily on Zhang Na to provide an upset. “I feel I’m a better player now. I’ve done everything for this challenge. A good start tomorrow will boost my confidence. I hope to be among the players on the leaderboard to be within striking distance,” said Zhang. The tournament — also sanctioned by the KLPGA and China Golf Tour — will be played over three rounds from Wednesday. The Ladies Asian Golf Tour is in its second season consisting of five events with a total of 600,000 dollars in prize money.