Pictured: The next Haotong Li?
The nine Chinese professional golfers who secured their places in the 25th Volvo China Open following Domestic Qualifying in Guangzhou (photo credit: Richard Castka)
Beijing’s Liu Yan Wei produced a stunning second round 65 (-5) to finish on six-under par (134) and win Domestic Qualifying by just one shot from Zhang Zi Hong at Nansha Golf Club in Guangzhou as nine players confirmed their places at the 25th Volvo China Open in May.
It was a performance that saw the 21-year-old race up the leaderboard from outside the qualifying places and confirm a seventh appearance in China’s National Open Golf Championship.
Nineteen-year-old Zhang from Guangdong clinched second place on five-under after also carding a 65 with six players sharing a tie for third place two shots adrift on three-under (137), including 39-year-old Li Jian Shan from Beijing who capped off a brilliant comeback from one-over at the half way stage to qualify for the Volvo China Open.
Also confirming their places in the RMB 20 million European Tour-sanctioned event, which will be staged at The Genzon Golf Club in Shenzhen from May 2-5, were Xiao Bo Wen, Ye Jian Feng, Chen Chang Ping and overnight co-leaders Wu Hong Fu and Jin Cheng (all three-under par) with Ma Cheng Yao claiming the ninth and final invite after a play-off with Chen Xiao Zhong on one-under.
Although nine players booked their Volvo China Open places, it was Liu who took the title and a cheque for RMB 76,100 after being helped by a remarkable stretch of four consecutive birdies on the back nine.
“I was a little surprised to win as yesterday’s score wasn’t so good but I’m obviously very happy to have played well and won,” smiled Liu, who finished in a tie for 66th place in last year’s Volvo China Open in Beijing. “I hadn’t played the course before and just played patiently as there was a lot of wind out there.
“I didn’t really worry about the score as I didn’t think I was going to win. My iron play was very good on the back nine and the birdie on 18 was obviously very important after two straight bogeys. But it is great news that I’ll be going to play the Volvo China Open in May as Genzon is my favourite course in China and that will give me a lot of confidence.”
As well as Liu, runner-up Zhang was also outside the qualifying positions when the 63 remaining players took to the par-70 Valley Course today (Wednesday). But there was no stopping the towering teenager who carded a 65 (-5) that included an eagle two on the 11th and four birdies to book his place at the Volvo China Open–his first appearance as a professional.
“I played the tournament in 2017 as an amateur but didn’t play that well,” said Zhang, who stands 2m tall in his golf shoes. “There’s a big difference going from amateur to professional and I have spent most of my first year as a pro trying to adjust. Today I was two-over when I was on the fifth and in the past I might have been angry and upset but now I have confidence in myself to get out of bad situations.
“I played Genzon before but I was a lot younger then so I’m looking forward to going back again. It’s great that China hosts such high-level tournaments and I’m excited that I will be able to play alongside the players I usually only see on TV.”
Of the other seven to confirm their places in the Volvo China Open, there was a sense of “mission accomplished” for 27-year-old Ye Jian Feng from Guangdong who maintained his 100% record in qualifying and will line up alongside many of the best players in the world after rounds of 67 and 70 saw him through to his sixth Volvo China Open.
Although 112 players started the competition, only 63 made it through to the final day with the top 25 finishers sharing prize-money of RMB 350,000.