Dou Ze-cheng (Getty Images)
While Ye Wo-cheng’s remarkable European Tour debut at the age of 12 may have stolen the pre-tournament headlines, it was 16 year old Dou Ze-cheng making waves during the first round of the Volvo China Open.
Like compatriot Ye, China’s Dou came through local qualifying to earn a first European Tour appearance at Binhai Lake Golf Club, and showed few signs of nerves with a two under par 70.
That was just two off the clubhouse lead late in the opening day, and had Dou sitting pretty in the top ten alongside Yan Bin as his country’s leading competitor.
“I was bit nervous at the start, had a bogey on the third but then came back really well with four birdies,” he said. “This is obviously by far the biggest event I have ever entered, so I am very excited to be part of it.
“This is a very long, tough course for me. On a couple of the longer par fours, I need to hit my wood from the fairway to have any chance of reaching the greens. I hit my irons really well today, so I didn’t leave myself any long putts, which is why I shot a good score today.
“It was exciting – in fact, very exciting to play such a big event. I hit a bit of a top off the first tee and only carried it 230 yards, but it was okay because I still got a par.”
Ye battled to a seven over par 79 as he became The European Tour’s youngest player, but still did enough to impress playing partner José Manuel Lara.
The Spaniard joked: “It’s the first time I’ve played with a baby! I think I was playing on the computer at 12, not playing in a big tournament on The European Tour.
“He’s definitely got something about him. He knows how to manage himself out on the course, and I’m sure he’s going to go a long way in the game.
“He’ll have to walk before he can run, but if he keeps his head down and keeps working hard, he can do big things. He hits it a long way for his age and he’s got a very good short game, so that’s a pretty decent combination. I was impressed with him. The course is probably a bit too long for him, but on a shorter course I could definitely see him competing against the older guys.”