Chinese golf prodigy, 12, set to smash record


Fri, Mar 22, 2013 - Page 18

Twelve-year-old Chinese golf prodigy Ye Wocheng ensured he is set to smash the record for youngest player at a European Tour event when he came through a qualifying tournament on Wednesday.

The Dongguan schoolboy was able to card a triple-bogey eight and still finish third, with a two-day score of two-under-par 142 at Chengdu’s Wolong Valley Country Club, punching his ticket to the Volvo China Open in May.

Ye follows Masters-bound Guan Tianlang and Florida-based Andy Zhang, both 14, to become part of the group of young stars emerging from China.

Guan holds the current European Tour age record after he played last year’s China Open in Tianjin at 13 years and 177 days. Hong Kong’s Jason Hak became the tour’s youngest cut-maker, aged 14 and 304 days, at the 2008 Hong Kong Open.

Despite international victories by the likes of veterans Liang Wenchong and Zhang Lianwei, China has only three players in the world’s top 650, confounding hopes that the country’s golfers would quickly make a big impact on the sport.

However, China’s teen and pre-teen players are now leading the charge, with Andy Zhang setting the trend when he became the youngest to tee off at the US Open last year.

Next month, Guan will attract more headlines when he becomes the youngest to play the US Masters, lowering the 2010 record of Italy’s Matteo Manassero, who was 16 at the time, by a distance.

For Guan, the sky is the limit. He said he dreamed of becoming the first player to achieve the legendary “Grand Slam” of golf.

“I have a dream since I was a little boy,” Guan said in an exclusive interview. “I wish, one day, I can win all four majors in one year.”

After Guan’s appearance at the April 11-14 showpiece at Augusta National, Ye is to hog the limelight if he sets the European Tour’s age record at the China Open on May 2.

Ye is already known internationally after he won the US Kids World Junior Championship in San Diego in 2010 and 2011, and finished runner-up last year. He also holds the tournament record of 12 under par.

This year, he won the Guangdong Junior Championships by a record 18 shots.

He credits his father, who caddied for him in Chengdu, with introducing him to golf.

“My dad was my first coach, so I owe him a lot for starting me off and helping me to develop my swing,” he said, according to the European Tour Web site. “He’s a pretty good player himself — an eight handicap.”