Golf: Callista Chen, Sarah Tan hold one-shot lead in local qualifier for HSBC Women's Champions

SINGAPORE - Callista Chen and Sarah Tan will head into the second and final day of the HSBC Women's Champions national qualifying tournament sharing the clubhouse lead, after both carded opening rounds of 76 on Wednesday.

The 18-year-olds, playing on the new Tanjong course at the Sentosa Golf Club, hold a slender one-shot lead over Koh Sock Hwee and Amanda Tan, both of whom are previous winners.

The winner of the local qualifier, contested by 14 Singaporean golfers, will earn a place to play in the prestigious March 2-5 HSBC Women's Champions, which has a prize purse of US$1.5 million (S$2.13 million).

Tan, who turns 19 on Friday, will be looking to celebrate her birthday with another strong round on Thursday. She posted a birdie on the par-four third, carding a one-under 35 on the front nine.

She said: "I started pretty well and hit a lot of fairways and greens... but on the back nine I started being more tentative and careful and then on the second last hole I hit my tee shot in the water so I made a double on that hole as well.

"I just need to be more consistent throughout the rounds and minimise mistakes and also just make sure that I commit and hit the spots that I want, to give myself the best chance possible of making it."

Chen, meanwhile, will be putting more focus on her short game to close out the tournament.

She said: "I think I hit the ball pretty good today with some really good drives and approach shots but I think I could have chipped and putted a little better. Before tomorrow, I don't think I need to do much ball striking because I'm hitting it good enough but I'll definitely do a bit of chipping and putting just to sharpen those wedges up."

Koh, who turned pro a year ago and is a three-time winner of the local qualifiers (2012, 2015, 2016), is confident of a strong recovery.

She said: "I actually felt like I played pretty good, but I just didn't make any putts, even five feet, six feet putts. I gave myself good chances which I just didn't convert so I'll definitely be going to the putting green.

"Conditions were okay today but the greens are very firm, so you have to plot and plan your way through the round. I can't control how the others play but If I make some putts tomorrow it will be good. I'm definitely still in it."

The HSBC Women's Champions will feature the best women golfers, with world No. 1 Lydia Ko and No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn pencilled in for this year's edition. Defending champion Jang Ha Na and Olympic champion Park In Bee will also be competing.