Bang takes early clubhouse lead at Hana Financial Group Singapore Women’s Open

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SINGAPORE, 7 MARCH 2024 – South Korea’s Bang Shin-sil made full use of fine weather conditions on the opening morning of the Hana Financial Group Singapore Women’s Open (HFGSWO) to seize the clubhouse lead at the Tanah Merah Country Club on Thursday (March 7).

She fired a flawless seven-under 65 to top the 108-player field, half of whom will complete their first round on Friday after inclement weather interrupted play on the 72-par Tampines Course.

Play was suspended for more than two hours at around 1.30pm due to a risk of lightning and resumed at 4pm before the lightning warning system sounded again nearly three hours later. Play was halted for the day and 54 players will wait till Friday to complete their first round.

Bang has a one-shot lead over Kim Jae-hee, who was on a hot streak before play was suspended at 6.53pm. Kim hit five consecutive birdies in the back nine to end the day at six-under, with one hole to be played.

A trio of Korean players — Lee Je-yeong, Kim Min-ju and Seo Yeun-jung — carded five-under 67s to be tied for provisional third, while compatriots Park Bo-kyeom and Park Do-eun scored four-under 68 and are joint-sixth.

Promising Filipina amateur Rianne Mikhaela Malixi stole the spotlight by posting a solid three-under 69 to finish tied-10th after her first round.

Notable contenders Patty Tavatanakit of Thailand, reigning KLPGA Tour Money List winner Lee Ye-won and defending champion Park Ji-young, who are all in the same flight, were unable to finish their rounds.

LPGA Tour star Patty lived up to her strong billing, notching four birdies to sit at four-under after 13 holes. Ji-young and Ye-won are at one-under and one-over respectively.

Bang was in fine form in the morning, hitting seven birdies in her last 12 holes to start her HFGSWO campaign on a good note.

Playing here for the first time, she expressed relief that the conditions weren’t as hot and humid as she had expected.

She said: “Generally, the shots and play went much smoother than I had anticipated. There wasn’t a single shot that didn’t go well.

“Overall, I’m pleased with my performance – it was pretty good.”

Bang entered the KLPGA Tour’s season-opener with the goal of building on her impressive rookie campaign from last year.

She clinched victory twice and secured seven other top-10 finishes, placing ninth in the 2023 KLPGA Money List.

What made her achievements even more remarkable was that she was managing the effects of hyperthyroidism — a condition characterised by the overproduction of thyroid hormones – throughout the second half of the 2023 season.

But she has since recovered and made a stylish comeback.

“As a rookie, winning two titles was incredibly significant for me. It was a great accomplishment,” said Bang.

“Dealing with the illness was quite challenging. But now I’m fully recovered and back in excellent condition.

“During that time, I tried to maintain a positive mindset, believing that things will improve and I’ll recover soon. These kinds of thoughts really helped me during my recovery. They put my mind at ease.”

Kim Min-ju, who finished tied-ninth at the inaugural HFGSWO in December 2022, looks set for another strong showing following a fine start.

“To not think about winning would be a lie but I will just keep doing my thing and doing my best,” she said.

Lee Je-yeong was pleased to regroup well after a bogey on the first hole for a strong opening round,  but refused to get carried away with thoughts of a potential maiden KLPGA victory.

“After I hit the bogey, I started finding my pace and grip back, so that’s why I was able to get a few birdies. I felt more at peace after that and that’s why I performed well,” said Lee Je-yeong, whose best result is a joint runner-up finish at last year’s McCol · Mona Yongpyong Open with SBS Golf.

“It’s the first day so I wasn’t thinking of winning at first, but now that I’m off to a good start, aiming for a win would be a good thing to work towards or it would be great to just be in the top 10 as well.”

Teenager Rianne, 16, also showed that she’s no pushover against her more illustrious competitors in her first pro start since finishing third in the US third-tier Women’s All Pro Tour in Texas in May 2023.

“I played pretty well in the practice round, but I wasn’t really expecting that I would shoot three-under today,” said Rianne, who is 35th in the World Amateur Golf Rankings and idolises Tiger Woods and Nelly Korda. 

“I don’t really think about the outcome. My goal is just to always make my shot the best and execute it well.  I’m not really thinking about the prestige of an event, I’m just focusing on my game.”

Singapore professional Koh Sock Hwee finished on par and is tied 44th, while amateurs Chen Xing Tong and Jaymie Ng are tied-81st (two-over-72) and tied-97th (four-over-72) respectively.

Fellow Singaporeans Amanda Tan, Aloysa Atienza and Jillian Kuk will complete their first round on Friday.

Credit: Hana Financial Group

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