After shooting a four under par round of 68 in the Western China Qualifier for the Volvo China Open, Ye Wo-cheng is just 18 holes away from achieving his ambition of eclipsing Guan Tian-lang’s record as the youngest player to compete on The European Tour.
Ye finished the opening day in second place, one shot shy of national squad member Li Xin-yang, who would have established a comfortable lead but three-putted his final two holes at Wolong Valley Country Club.
“A year ago I set out to break Guan’s European Tour record, and I’m nearly there,” said 12 year old Ye, who collected five birdies and a solitary bogey.
“I drove the ball very well today, but I didn’t take advantage of my overall good play by holing more putts on the front nine. I putted quite well on the back nine, however.”
The youngster lives in the industrial city of Donggaun in Guangdong province, but is already a regular player on the international junior golf circuit with numerous age group wins to his credit.
Victory in the US Kids World Junior Championship in San Diego, in both 2010 and 2011, was followed by a runner-up finish last year in the same event, in which Ye holds the tournament record of 12 under par. Earlier this year, he also won the Guangdong Junior Championships by a record 18 shots.
Ye’s father caddied for him in Tuesday’s opening round, and the youngster credits his dad for introducing him to the game of golf.
“My dad was my first coach, so I owe him a lot for starting me off and helping me to develop my swing,” said Ye, a member of Hillview Golf Club in Dongguan. “He’s a pretty good player himself – an eight handicap.”
Li, 18, said that the three putts on the final two holes were simply down to lost concentration. “I started thinking about my score instead of thinking about each individual shot,” said the Shan Xi native. “It was a shame to end the round that way, but it’s good to be leading such an important event.”
Three players share third place on two under par, including 14-year-old Jin Cheng, who made five birdies during his round of 70. Also on two under par 70 are Jin Da-xing and Zhou Zhen-bin, who was the only player in the field to keep the bogeys off his card.
The leaderboard after round one proves that the standard of junior golf in China is at an all-time high, with Li, Ye and Jin having a combined age of just 42.
The leading three finishers from the maximum entry of 120 golfers at each qualifying event will earn their place in the 19th edition of the Volvo China Open.
Three weeks after the third and final qualifier, the tournament will take place at Tianjin Binhai Lake Golf Club, in north-east China.