A week after sixteen year old Italian Matteo Manassero became the youngest player in Masters Tournament history, promising Chinese teenager Zhang Jin this week sets a new record as the youngest player to tee it up in the Volvo China Open.
The 14 year old amateur – who doesn’t turn 15 until October 5 – could become the youngest player to make a European Tour cut should he make it through to the weekend, eclipsing the existing record set by Jason Hak (14 years and 304 days) set in the 2009 UBS Hong Kong Open.
Prior to the Hong Kong teenager’s superb performance, Sergio Garcia had held the record for 13 years, set when the Spaniard was 15 years and 46 days in the Turespaña Masters Mediterrania in 1995.
Zhang sealed his place in the Volvo China Open courtesy of winning the Northern China qualifying event at the Bejing Honghua course designed by Sir Nick Faldo. The youngest player in European Tour history is Lo Shih-kai, who played in the Omega Hong Kong Open in 2003 aged 13 years and 280 days and while Zhang cannot beat that record, the experience of teeing it up alongside some of the leading European Tour players will be one he savours so early in his career.
He will play alongside Korean Ted Oh and Spaniard José Manuel Lara for the first two rounds and will be among illustrious company at Suzhou Jinji Lake Golf Club, with Ryder Cup Captains Colin Montgomerie and Corey Pavin in the field, along with US PGA Championship winner Y.E Yang and Sweden’s Henrik Stenson.
The teenager said: “I feel really happy to be playing here this week. There are so many good players and it will be great experience for me to see them play and hopefully I will learn to play better myself.
“The winds were very strong in qualifying and it was hard but I’m excited to be here. I started playing golf when I was six years old and it is my dream to be a professional and play in the Olympics.”
Zhang will look to last week’s stunning display by Manassero at Augusta when the Italian amateur achieved the best finish in the Masters Tournament by a European amateur for 73 years.
Manassero, who will turn professional in a month's time when he will make his debut in the BMW Italian Open in Turin, came joint 36th on four over par, two places and three strokes better than Sergio Garcia managed when he was the last British Amateur champion to survive the cut in 1999.
You have to go back to the fourth Masters Tournament in 1937 for a better performance from a European amateur. That was England's Francis Francis, who finished 28th - on 14 over par.
Meanwhile, aside from Zhang, Australian Scott Strange will also be looking to create history this week when he attempts to become the first player to successfully defend the Volvo China Open title.
In the 15 previous editions of event (it became part of The European Tour International Schedule in 2005), there have been 15 different winners, from 11 different countries.
It is the first time The European Tour has visited Suzhou Jinji Lake Golf Club, which is approximately 90 minutes from the city of Shanghai.
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