Teenage golfer Jin swings it to win it

Teenage golfer Jin swings it to win it

The 17-year-old Beijing native becomes second Chinese golfer to win amateur Asia-Pacific contest, and gets a ticket to Masters after typhoon stops play

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Some people, like Jin Cheng, can just get into the swing of it.
Photo: AP

In 2013, China's Guan Tianlang became the youngest-ever player at the prestigious US Masters golf tournament, aged 14. He'd won his place after winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship the year before.

Now 17-year-old Jin Cheng is set to follow Guan to the famous American competition, as he became the second Chinese golfer to win the Asia-Pacific tournament, after Sunday's fourth round was cancelled because of typhoon Mujigae.

"Well, this win just came so fast and sudden," said Jin, who shot a record 62 in the first round. "I was ready for a round today and unfortunately the weather didn't work out and it's my pleasure to win this week, I really enjoyed it."

And Jin is particularly thrilled to be going to one of the world's biggest golf events.

"I remember watching the Masters on TV a long time ago and to be going there is really amazing for me, man. I'm so excited and really looking forward to it."

Jin's 11-under-par 199 was one stroke better than the 10-under of Australians Ryan Ruffels, 17, and Cameron Davis, 20, who were hitting their stride just as Jin started to fade.

With the threat of cancellation a reality after Saturday's third round at Clearwater Bay Golf & Country Club, 27 golfers were still able to tee off at 6.40am on Sunday as scheduled. But after the leading group completed three holes, heavy rain and winds forced them off at about 7.40am.

At 11am, organisers decided to cancel the fourth round and turn it into a 54-hole contest.

Although Jin said he didn't realise it at the time, he will forever look back at his brilliant chip on Saturday from the 18th green to within centimetres of the cup as a key moment.

Ryan and Davis had finished their rounds, both with three-under 67s, to put them in a three-way tie with Jin at 10 under.

However, China's number one amateur tapped in for a birdie for a one-shot lead at 11-under, which he was spared from defending by the fourth-round cancellation.

Ryan, who played in the same group with Jin during the first two rounds, paid tribute to the Beijing native.

"We've known each other for a long time, we are about the same age and we've gone through a lot together in junior golf," said Ryan. "We get along great. He's a heck of a golfer and a great guy, and to shoot 62 in the first round and keep the lead is amazing."

Organisers said they had tried their best to complete the fourth round, waiting for as long as possible before deciding to cancel play.

At least the weather cleared up in time for Jin Cheng to accept his trophy!
Photo: AP


"It was a very difficult decision to make as we wanted to see the completion of 72 holes as much as all the competitors did," said David Cherry, chairman of the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation.

"The competition committee was committed to completing the final round on Sunday if at all possible; however the extreme weather conditions meant that completing in daylight would not be possible."

Billy Payne, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the US Masters, said Jin deserved his victory despite playing only 54 holes. "While weather regrettably shortened the event, we have identified a very worthy and talented champion in [Jin]," said Payne. "This is a moment of celebration. He showed tremendous skill during the championship and we look forward to welcoming him to Augusta next April."

Ryan and Davis have the consolation of joining Jin at the British Open qualifying series at Royal Troon, in Scotland, in July.

"We are very much looking forward to welcoming Cheng and the runners-up to Royal Troon," said Martin Slumbers, chief executive of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, in Scotland.

The Australians tried to look on the bright side but the heartbreak was hard to suppress. Both golfers said the experience of playing in Hong Kong on a tough course, and with the US Masters to aim for, offers valuable experience as their careers grow.

"To play the way we did under the circumstances, the golf course was difficult, and we feel like we can take on any golf course at the moment," said Davis, this year's Australian amateur champion.

"The pressure to win with that kind of prize [a place in the US Masters] on the line, that's going to stick with you for a long time. To know you can play that well under the circumstances gives you a lot of confidence."

Ryan, the world amateur No 8 and top-ranked player in the field, agreed with his teammate but couldn't hide his disappointment.

"As amateurs, this is our major. This is disappointing but it is a learning curve and we take a lot out of it going forward," he said.

"I guess it's not hard to tell that we're both pretty gutted," added Ryan, the son of former Australian tennis pro Ray Ruffels. "Nothing we can do about the situation, the organisers did the best they could but there's not much you can do when you have conditions like that."

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Jin swings it to win it

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