A strong finish over a windswept Lion Lake course saw Yuan Tian surge to a two-shot victory in the Volvo China Open Southern China Qualifying event.
Yuan’s four-over-par total of 148 for the two rounds was testimony to his resilience, keeping his composure in testing, windy conditions, an excellent flourish over the final few holes the icing on the cake as he heads now for the Volvo China Open next month.
Having started the day three shots off the lead, and with a further three dropped shots on the outward nine, the 29-year-old from Shenzhen looked out of contention for any of the three available qualifying spots for the showpiece Volvo China Open next month as he began the back nine.
To his credit, Yuan managed to move his game up a gear on the home stretch and played attacking golf despite the tough conditions, and was rewarded handsomely for his efforts.
His charge began in earnest at the par three 14th where he rolled in an audacious 18ft birdie putt, following this up with a spectacular three-wood from the rough to ten feet at the next, the par five 15th, only to see his putt for eagle slide agonisingly past the hole.
However, with his birdie safely secured and his adrenalin clearly pumping, Yuan drove the 315-yard 17th green only to see his ball bury itself in thick rough at the back of the green.
In what was probably one the most important shots of his round, Yuan got the ball onto the putting surface, holed-out to salvage his par, before seeing out the difficult 489-yard Par four final hole with well-deserved par.
“Conditions were really tough out there today, but going into the back-nine, I new I had to up my game if I was to stand any chance of qualifying for the Volvo China Open,” said Yuan afterwards, adding, “I played really well and the birdies on the 14th and 15th gave me great encouragement.”
“Qualifying for my national open golf championship is one of my greatest achievement in golf so far and hopefully I can play well in the Volvo China Open, for which I will be practicing hard and where my initial goal will be to make the cut.”
The second Volvo China Open qualifying place was taken by Li Fang-yi with rounds of 74, 76 for a 150 total, whilst the third and final slot for the Chengdu showpiece was secured by Chen Ding-gen, but only after having to endure a sudden death play-off, which needed three trips down the long 18th hole before eventually overcoming Gao Jie with a courageous, clinching birdie three.