Yet another Chinese golf prodigy will set a youngest-ever record in this week’s China Open. When Ye Wo-cheng tees off on Thursday,he will become the youngest ever player in a European Tour event,at 12 years,242 days. The Dongguan schoolboy will be 287 days younger than compatriot Guan Tian-lang,who was 13 years,177 days when he competed in last year’s China Open. Guan went on to make more history last month when he became the youngest ever to compete in the Masters,then make the cut.
Ye was merely the latest young Chinese talent making his way to the world stage at Binhai Lake club,130 kilometers (65 miles) south east of Beijing.
Also in the field were Andy Zhang,14,who was the youngest ever to play in the U.S. Open last year,Bai Zheng-kai,15,last year’s winner of the China Junior Matchplay Championship,Dou Ze-cheng,16,and Jim Liu,the youngest ever winner of the U.S. Junior Amateur in 2010 at 14.
Ye qualified for the China Open with his father on the bag,fighting back from a late double bogey to secure the last of four qualifying places.
Ye’s ability to listen and respond is way above the norm, said his coach,Englishman David Watson. At the moment,I don’t believe that Ye has too many rivals of the same age. He often wins in higher age groups,but at the same time,I know it is dangerous to speculate and we must realize he is just a 12-year-old boy, he said.
Watson was the former amateur coach to Ryder Cup stars Lee Westwood and Justin Rose,and works with the Chinese youth golf program.
Already a winner
Despite his age,Ye has already enjoyed impressive international victories,including success in the 2010 and 2011 U.S. Kids World Championship. Last year,he was runner-up,and proudly boasts the tournament record of 12-under par,lowering the previous record by Tiger Woods. This year,Ye captured the Guangdong Junior Championship by a record 18 strokes.
South African Branden Grace returns as defending champion,and the 24-year old was looking forward to seeing how Ye performs. It’s just amazing because when I look back,I only started playing golf when I was 11,Grace said. I don’t want even know what handicap I had when I was 12, he said.