DISMAYED Gold Coast schoolgirl Annie Choi was in tears yesterday at Royal Pines after a disqualification robbed her of the chance chance to compete in the slipstream of leader So-Yeon Ryu.
While Ryu produced a stellar 61 at the RACV Australian Ladies Masters, Choi - just 16 - felt "confused and let down" because her group of three had misinterpretted advice from a starter and had been wrongly taking preferred lies in the soggy rough during Thursday's opening round.
The Queensland-based Korean amateur, Sydney's Corie Hou and former Victorian junior champion Inhong Lim were disqualified en masse by an official on the second tee yesterday when Thursday's irregularities were raised by the girls themselves.
"I'm devastated and frustrated. We checked with a starter 100 per cent on what we were allowed to do . . . I felt it meant (preferred lies) everywhere," said Choi, a Year 11 schoolgirl at Coomera's Saint Stephen's College.
"I was really happy with how I was going but I have to accept what has happened."
The former Australian junior champion said she had marked, cleaned and placed her ball in the rough three times during her two-under 70 on Thursday while Hou (81) and Lim (80) had done so a similar number of times.
The local rules sheet issued to all players in the wet lead-up to the tournament detailed preferred lies on "closely mown areas".
Ladies European Tour operations director Cyprien Comoy said the trio had made a "genuine mistake" and it was a "harsh lesson learned because players have got to know the rules".
Choi will fly to Melbourne today to prepare for Australian Open qualifying in Monday, and will be left to follow the birdie blitz of Korea's bubbly US Open champion Ryu (66-61) on TV.
Ryu was superb yesterday, rolling in a staggering 12 birdies. For a blink it appeared she might get within reach of a magical 59 despite a bogey hiccup on her second hole.
Ryu is a delight at 21. Her ball carries a pink P - which she giggles is all to do with her "Piggy" nickname.
"My friends think I eat too much," she giggled.
"My coach (Brisbane-based Ian Triggs) says I'm 50 per cent Australian because I especially like Vegemite.
"I was told it was chocolate jam but after my strange face when I first tasted it, I love it."
Ryu revealed that Piggy means good fortune in Korea, and her delight at a career-best 61 to lead Dutchwoman Christel Boeljon (66-65) by four shots was obvious.
Boeljon had a hot birdie-birdie-eagle finish of her own.
"I put my best score, 62, with my autograph so I was just nervous thinking of 61, not about 59," Ryu shrugged.
Canberra's Nikki Campbell (67-67) is tied third while out-of-sorts 2009 champion Katherine Hull (70-74) missed a birdie putt and the cut on the final green.
At 17-under, Ryu is well within reach of eclipsing seven-time champion Karrie Webb's tournament-record of 26-under which she set in 1999 and equalled in 2010.