China’s Li intends to learn from Korean pros

photo

Li Jiayun leads the China women's team at the Asian Games.

GUANGZHOU, China – Li Jiayun is looking to end 2010 on a high note with strong performances in two big events that she knows could shape her future.

Speaking in Guangzhou ahead of her participation in the 16th Asian Games, the captain of the Chinese women’s team hopes to follow a medal-winning performance this week at the Dragon Lake Golf Club with a strong showing in the China Ladies Open on Dec. 17-19.

After finishing T-58 in 2007 and T-19 last year in her previous two national open appearances, the 22-year-old Guangzhou native said the tournament was a chance to learn up close from the pros.

Of particular interest to her are the 40 visiting pros from the Korean LPGA Tour in the joint-sanctioned event. Since world No. 1 Jiyai Shin won the inaugural China Ladies Open in 2006 (and successfully defended her title the next year), Koreans have dominated the event, winning four consecutive years.

“They look more professional than their Chinese counterparts,” Li said. “Most of them are the same age as me, but they have come to maturity as professionals.

“The China Ladies Open is a great chance for me to take lessons from their impressive experiences.”

Among the habits she picked up from the Koreans is the art of ball marking, ensuring the mark is perfect, and in keeping her hands warm between shots.

Li also wants to eliminate a troublesome pattern she has developed in following a strong round with a poor performance, which cost her at last year’s championship. After opening with a 76, Li rebounded with a second-round 67, the low round of the tournament, to move up the leaderboard. She then ballooned to a final-round 77 to fall out of contention.

Li, who finished runner-up at the Orient Shanghai Classic in June and more recently was 12th at last month’s Sanya Ladies Open, said she is unsure when she’ll turn pro but said it’s in the near future.

“I’m still not sure whether to join the China Ladies Open as an amateur or a professional player,” she said. “Maybe next January or February (I’ll turn pro). My golf has improved a lot in two years, which gives me confidence and encourages me. . . . But I still need to finish my university studies. Then I hope to play the Japan LPGA Tour.

“But each player who wants to go outside to play international tours needs to first go through the test in playing their national open. . . . The Asian Games is a good place to get it started.”

That four-round amateur golf competition starts Wednesday.

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