World No. 1 Yani Tseng of Taiwan hit a long drive at a tee-off ceremony yesterday morning to formally open the US$2 million Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship.
One of Taiwan’s most celebrated sports figures, Tseng powered her drive up the first fairway at the same time as former vice president Vincent Siew, LPGA commissioner Michael Whan, Taiwan Tournament chairman Frederick Chien, Sunrise Group president Hsu Tien-ya and others also hit ceremonial tee shots to open the event.
The ceremony was followed by a pro-am event, in which 36 pros, including many in the top 10, were each paired with three amateurs. The shotgun format event saw the first 18 groups of players tee off simultaneously from different holes. Tseng was grouped with Siew, Whan and Chien, and outdrove them off the first tee at the Sunrise Golf & Country Club course.
“If my shot had landed closer, I’d have lost face,” Tseng said, joking with a small group of spectators who praised her for her long drive.
She also analyzed her own shots with her playing partners and talked about the effect of the wind on club selection. After listening to her suggestion, Siew changed his club and was able to get his shot on the green. Tseng won the first Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship last year by five shots and is back to defend her title. She will likely face stiff competition from a strong field that includes Choi Na-yeon, Shin Ji-yai and Park In-bee of South Korea, Ai Miyazato of Japan, Paula Creamer and Michelle Wie of the US, Azahara Munoz of Spain and Suzann Pettersen of Norway.
Tseng is not nearly the prohibitive favorite she was coming into last year’s event, having suffered a prolonged slump this year before finishing third at last week’s LPGA event in South Korea. However, her familiarity with the course, one she played on regularly as a teenager, may still give her an edge.
The four-round tournament opens today at the course in Yangmei Township, Taoyuan County.