The 2009 Taifong Ladies Open was held from January 2 to January 4 at Changhua's Taifong Golf Club, which was a three-day, 54-hole tournament with a 6,505-yard golf course. The total prize money was as high as NT$4.1 million and the champion would be awarded NT$1 million. The lineup was even better than 2008, featuring 110 players from 11 countries or territories.  Among them, 100 were professional players and the other 10 were amateurs. Out of the 100 professionals, 9 were from Japan, 10 from China, 9 from South Korea, 7 from Thailand, 3 from Hong Kong/Vietnam, and 3 from the U.S. and Australia. This time 30 Taiwanese players took part in the tournament. Apart from the defending champion Teresa Lu Hsiao-Ching, JLPGA players Wei Yun-jye, Lu Ya-huei, Julie Lu Hsiao-chuan, Tseng Hsiu-feng, and Yu Pei-lin also came back to Taiwan to join the game.
The host Chairman Lin Por-shih of the Taifong Golf Club has spared no effort in promoting the development of Taiwan's golf sport in recent years, holding Taifong TPGA Open for three times, Changchun vs. ladies combat twice, and the first Taifong Ladies Open in 2008. In 2009, he mobilized as many resources as he could to hold the second Taifong Ladies Open, which was one of the most significant major ladies international golf events in Taiwan. What Chairman Lin had in mind was to allow Taiwan's female golfers to gain more experience from real games, so as to lay solid foundation for their future golf career.

 

The renovation of Taifong Golf Course began in 2001 and would be continued. The purpose of the course renovation was to allow the audience a better view. By widening and extending the golf course, trimming or removing trees, and enhancing the growth of the grass, the audience can see the ups and downs of the course as players go along their game. Prior to the 2009 Taifong Ladies Open, the number of TiffEagle greens was up to 14. After the tournament started, the TiffEagle surface indeed lived up to their reputation and tested the players with high speed greens, which brought them closer to an international tournament experience.

 

Pro-Am Match Warmed up the Tournament

In advance to this high-level ladies professional tournament, a pro-am match play was held on January 1. 44 professional female players were paired with 132 amateurs from all walks of life. LPGA player Teresa Lu was in the same group with Chairman Lin Por-shih and Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Chairman P. K. Chiang. Judging from the condition of the match play, the golf course was already in its best shape.
On the warm and sunny New Year's holiday, the participants in the match play all enjoyed their golfing. The match play was in Scramble format, and the champion was won by professional player Huang Hui-fan and her three amateur teammates Hou Cheng-da, Huang Cheng-I and Su Cheng-ji with a total score of 62 strokes, followed by 63 of the Tseng Hsiu-feng team. The defending champion Teresa Lu, along with her teammates Chairman Lin, Chairman Chiang and He Yong-yu took the 5th place with 64 shots.Among the domestic players in this tournament, the defending champion Teresa Lu ranked 34th in the LPGA tour and had an excellent record;


Wei Yun-jye ranked 30th in the JLPGA tour, the highest among Taiwan's  JLPGA players, followed by Julie Lu's 41st, and the two had already got their ticket to the 2009 JLPGA tour. In addition, JLPGA ranked #54 Lu Ya-huei (sixth place in the 2008 Taifong Ladies Open) and JLPGA ranked #74 Yu Pei-lin were in the lineup as well. Also joining the rank were two senior players Tu Ai-yu, Huang Yue-chyn, and the top scorer in the 2008 TLPGA tour Shih Huei-ju.  Four Taiwan young players Winny Lin Tzu-chi, Yeh Ko -chen, Chang Ching-yun, and Su Kai-yun who just turned professional in 2008, all chose this tournament to make their professional career debut.

Among the domestic players in this tournament, the defending champion Teresa Lu ranked 34th in the LPGA tour and had an excellent record; Wei Yun-jye ranked 30th in the JLPGA tour, the highest among Taiwan's  JLPGA players, followed by Julie Lu's 41st, and the two had already got their ticket to the 2009 JLPGA tour. In addition, JLPGA ranked #54 Lu Ya-huei (sixth place in the 2008 Taifong Ladies Open) and JLPGA ranked #74 Yu Pei-lin were in the lineup as well. Also joining the rank were two senior players Tu Ai-yu, Huang Yue-chyn, and the top scorer in the 2008 TLPGA tour Shih Huei-ju.  Four Taiwan young players Winny Lin Tzu-chi, Yeh Ko -chen, Chang Ching-yun, and Su Kai-yun who just turned professional in 2008, all chose this tournament to make their professional career debut.

Some of the top ten players in China also took part in the competition, including Yang Tao-li, Yang Hong-mei, Yan Pan-pan, and Shen Yan-hua. The tournament featured top players from home and abroad, which made the game even more competitive and worth-watching. Other foreign players included Japan's Kaori Aoyama (JLPGA ranked #78), Aiko Takasu, a veteran in the JLPGA tour with 19 titles, and the Kamata sisters Hiro and Honey who lived in Australia at the time. In addition, Korean player Kim Hae-jung was the champion of the 2006 Orient Masters Wuhan, while Natalie Tucker from the U.S. won the 2007 Macao Open.

General Manager of the Taifong Golf Club pointed out that the organizer focused particularly on renovating the greens, so as to provide American-style high-speed greens and to maintain the consistency in speed. To win the championship, the players were expected to deliver a five-under par score after three rounds (-3 last year).
 

Unwavering Defending Champion

The first round formally began on January 2. Teresa Lu, who sought her second title here, took her lead on the first day with one-over-par 73. Chinese player Huang Mei-hao snapped her golf club on the 18th hole, bogeyed three times, and tied with Korean player Kang Yeo-jin at second with 74 strokes.

Japan's Kaori Aoyama and Korea's Kim Hae-jung tied at fourth with 75 shots; young amateur Hsieh Yu-ling 76, evened with Chinese player Wang Chun at sixth. Another Taiwan's amateur player Cindy Yao played 77 shots, even with Korean player Shin Ji-eun, Thailand's Rungthiwa Pangjan, and Taiwan's Tai Yu-chuan and Cheng Mei-chi.

Many players felt excited that they were able to compete on such a challenging golf course and greens, saying that their putts on the greens would be crucial to their overall performance.

Teresa Lu, who was only one shot ahead of the second, said that the greens were so challenging that she could hardly decide her putting course and direction. "It was too hard to birdie," said Lu. She birdied only twice while she putted 33 times in the first round, which was not an ideal record for her. But her iron shots were good enough to get herself onto the green on 14 out of 18 holes.

 

On the 150-yard eighth hole, she got herself onto the green with her 6-iron and birdied from eight feet.  On the tenth hole, her second shot with a 9-iron knocked herself onto the green, and she amazingly made a birdie from 22 feet with a winding putt.   But she took in three bogeys by missing her cut shots that day. She played 37 shots on the front nine and 36 on the back nine.

After concluding the first round, she said she only wanted to get a fair record. Thinking about defending her title would put huge pressure on herself, but of course, it would be the best if she could win.  After coming back to Taiwan from the U.S. on December 23, she gave herself a week-long vacation and totally unwound herself. "Everything is awesome in Taiwan. Watching TV and eating local cuisine are still my favorites," said Lu.

 

Having played in the LPGA tour for three years, Lu's annual prize money ranking was up to #34 in 2008, and her best record was third place at the Ginn Open. In 2008, she got sponsorship from Taiwan's Kanda Rubber. But now her hat and golf shirt looked even more crowded, since Callaway, the golf equipment manufacturer, became her sponsor as well.

On the first day, most players were not adjusted to the speed and slope of the greens, including some top players. Out of a pool of 82 players, only 27 managed to deliver an under-80 score. The number of birdies on some short holes again showed how challenging the Taifong Golf Course was. For example, only Kang Yeo-jin birdied the 185-yard fiftheenth while other 21 players were par; only three players birdied the 154-yard second and the 150-yard eighth.

Day two: Rivaling Match between Two Gals

In the second round on January 3, the 2008 champion Teresa Lu shot a 2-over-par 74 due to her poor cut shots and putts. She shared her lead with Korean player Kang Yeo-jin with a two-round score 147 strokes, just one stroke ahead of another Korean player Kim Hae-jung's 148.
Both Kang and Kim played 73 shots on the second day. In the final round, the two would be arranged in the same group with Lu for a final showdown. The speed of the greens was not as fast as the previous day, so the players were able to improve their scores.

Taiwan's 17-year-old amateur Hsieh Yu-ling wrapped up the second round with 74 shots and tied with her compatriot Julie Lu and Korean player Lee Eun-kyoung, the only two players who played under-par (71) in two days.

Taiwan's Huang Yu-chen knocked an even-par 72 score, which was her best record in a single round for years. Taiwan's senior player Cheng Mei-chi played 75 shots and tied with Huang at eighth, with a two-round score of 152.

After completing two rounds, four Korean players made it to the top ten, next to Taiwan's five. Among the four Korean players, Jeong Hae-won was alone at tenth with 153 shots. In addition, Thailand's Rungthiwa Pangjan also stood alone at seventh with 151 strokes (77-74).

Huang Mei-hao, one of the players at the second place after the first round, lost her mojo on the second day. She missed a lot of putts and played 35 putts on the day, 5 ones more than the previous day. She also made quite some errors in her short game. She hit a less-than-ideal 80 strokes, making her down to the eleventh place with her compatriot Wang Chun. Their two-round score 154 was currently the best among all Chinese players in this tournament.

Teresa Lu said she missed all birdie putts on her front nine, which all ended in par. She was so eager to make it right on the back nine that she made even more mistakes, stung by two three-putt bogeys on the 12th and 14th respectively. Lu's poor performance enabled Kang Yeo-jin to lead for the first time by one shot after she finished the 14th hole. The two were even again when Kang took a bogey on the 16th.
17-year-old amateur Cindy Yao fell from eighth to eighteenth after concluding the second round. She played a two-round score of 155 (77-78), so did her compatriot Yu Pei-lin (78-77) and two Thailand players.
The temperature was lower on the second day, but it became warmer after the sun came out. Many players changed to short-sleeve golf shirts while playing back nine, including one of the leading players Teresa Lu. In addition, Taiwan's JLPGA player Julie Lu, who played one-under-par on that day, said the course was even better than the first day, where the speed and distance both changed quite a lot, so that players were able to live up to their normal standard.  They no longer had to choose a longer golf club and could be more relaxed. Julie Lu herself grabbed four birdies, only second to one player. Since she was

three shots behind the leading players, she decided to play safe on the final day and aimed at the third place. She would only strive for the championship if she saw a good chance.
 

A Roller Coaster Ride for Teresa Lu

The final round was so breathtaking that the winner had to be decided in the tiebreaker.
The defending champion Teresa Lu struggled to be tied with the Korean player Kang Yeo-jin, who caught up from behind in the final round. With her birdies on the last two holes, Lu extended the race into the tiebreaker and hit another birdie to defeat Kang. Teresa Lu successfully defended her title in a roller coaster match and won a NT $1 million prize.
Just as in 2008, Lu contributed 20 percent of her prize money (NT$200,000) to TLPGA as the training fund for Taiwan's teenage golf players.  The title was the second one since Lu turned pro in 2006, and both of her titles were won here.

Lu said after the game that she was not too nervous in the final; instead, she focused a lot on her own temple. In particular, her caddy loosened her up by chatting with her along the way, so she was able to give her full attention to the game.  Although her competitor putted well in the final round, Lu emphasized that she had home advantage. She could feel the great support from the crowd, especially when she played the last hole. Many spectators were cheering for her, giving her strength and warming her heart.

Lu also pointed out that since this was her first defending title and her first victory in the new year, she felt that it was a good sign.  She hoped she could get her first win in the 2009 LPGA tour, where she prepared to participate in 25 or 26 tournaments.

She analyzed that her second shots were all not close enough to the holes during the past three days, which made her struggle throughout the game. Therefore, she saw the need to improve her second shot to make it more precise. Needless to say, determining the putt course was difficult too, said Lu. She gave credit to the renovated greens of the Taifong Golf Course.

 
The new TiffEagle surface was easy to putt on, making her feel as if she were in the LPGA tour. The TiffEagle grass was highly tolerant of cold and wet conditions, easy to maintain, soft and fast, so the greens were indeed greatly improved.

Lu's second title at Taifong did not come easy. Her opponent Korea's Kang Yeo-jin was cool and calm in her game, and demonstrated precise cut shots and putts. The two both had their lead in the final round. In 2008, Kang was at fifth before she went into the final and up to the third in the end, which was a proof of her great potentiality.
But Teresa Lu also showed the true color of a champion. On the 18th hole, she stood against huge pressure and tied the game with a solid 18-foot birdie putt. The crowd, who held their breath for this critical moment, all burst into cheers and applauds for her astonishing performance.

In the tiebreaker, she was just six feet away from her first hole after she got her ball onto the green. She did not miss the opportunity and transferred the pressure to her opponent. On the other hand, Kang Yeo-jin was 16 feet away from her first hole. She could only setter for the runner-up after her birdie putt missed the hole to the left.  The runner-up was awarded with NT$410,000 prize money.
Chairman Lin Por-shih said at the award ceremony that he was happy to see Teresa Lu keep the title at home. Overall the players' performance was not ideal, but he thought what mattered the most was the level of the Taifong Golf Course was approved by all participants.