China’s 12-year-old Ye Wo-cheng became the European Tour’s youngest ever player when he teed off at the Volvo China Open yesterday, but struggled in the stiff wind.
Dutchman Robert-Jan Derksen made light of the conditions to shoot a six-under-par 66 and take a two-shot lead after the first round.
Ye struck his opening drive firmly down the middle of the fairway, but finished only with a 79, while his 16-year-old fellow qualifier Dou Ze-cheng shot an impressive 70.
However, Ye said he was proud to have broken the age record set last year by countryman Guan Tianlang, who made history last month by becoming the youngest player to take part in the US Masters.
Guan was docked a shot for taking too long during the second round at Augusta and Ye also came under time pressure yesterday.
“I was a little nervous when I teed off, but I tried to forget the nerves,” Ye said, in comments supplied by OneAsia, who co-sanctioned the tournament. “[Then] the referee timed me and warned me to play more quickly. I was affected a little — Guan Tianlang was penalized as well. I will pay more attention to this.”
Derksen shrugged off two early bogeys with eight birdies around the links-style course at the Tianjin Binhai Lake Golf Club in China.
Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat, France’s Raphael Jacquelin and Australian Brett Rumford shared second place, while six players were grouped a shot further back.
Defending champion Branden Grace, aiming to become the first person to lift the title for a second time and against a field that boasts six other former winners, fired 74.
“It was a funny day because I started well with a birdie from about five feet, but then three-putted the third and fourth and ended up in three divots on the fairways later in the round,” Derksen said. “But I made a lot of birdies [coming home] and I’ve ended the day in a really good position.”
Taiwan’s Hsieh Chi-hsien was tied for 80th place after shooting a two-over 74.