VOLVO CHINA OPEN QUALIFYING CELEBRATES 50 EVENTS

At the completion of the 50th Volvo China Open Qualifying event at Binhai Forest Golf Club yesterday, a total of 3,450 competitors have enrolled since 2005, with 156 qualifying for the Volvo China Open, 19 of whom have been amateurs.

The evolution of the Volvo China Open was enhanced in 2005 with the decision to stage qualifying events in three different regions of China.

After 10 successful years of competition, Volvo and the China Golf Association decided to adopt the principal of other national Opens by staging qualifiers to offer participation to a much broader pool of players.

This was thought to be a necessary advancement, as the previous year the Volvo China Open became part of the European Tour, and so the elevation in status carried with it the responsibility to host a truly Open event.

Curiously the players were initially doubtful that they could be a part of this new concept, but after the success of the first event at Silport Golf Club in Shanghai they came to realise that this was a golden opportunity to be able to compete in their national Open - something that all professional golfers aspire to do.

Former chef Liu Anda won the first qualifier to create a small part of Chinese golfing history. In the Northern Qualifier in Beijing that same year the first amateur won a place through qualifying when Yang Yang finished third.

Also in 2005 we saw three female players enroll to play. Zhong Xiaolong, Zhang Na and amateur Cao Yu-hui all teed it up to take on the men.

Female players continued to enter the qualifiers and in 2009 Wang Chun was leading after the first 18-hole round. She continued to lead the event until a double bogey on the par-four 13th hole at the demanding Hong Hua Golf Club in Beijing saw her relinquish the lead, however she continued to play well and needed only a par on the final hole to qualify.

Sadly she three putted from 45 feet to miss out on what would have been a very significant part of Chinese golf history, but it was oh so close.

In 2007 an international qualifier was added to the schedule and was staged at Discovery Bay Golf Club in Hong Kong, where South Korea’s Han Lee became the first international winner.

Also qualifying that year were the Taiwanese Pan brothers. Pan Cheung-tsung, 15, finished in second place after a driver and a three-iron to three feet at the par-five final hole saw him make the eagle putt to leapfrog his elder brother, who finished third.

Pan junior went on to be ranked the highest amateur golfer in the world in 2013, and is now a full time player on the lucrative USPGA Tour.

Also now a regular USPGA Tour member is Noh Seung-yul, who competed at Discovery Bay as a 16-year-old and was much heralded having distinguished himself in amateur events in the US and elsewhere internationally, however he fell short and did not qualify for the Volvo China Open.

In 2007 Ye Jiang-feng became the first junior player to win a qualifier when he claimed an amazing victory as a 15-year-old at Beijing CBD Golf Club. Later the same year he also won the Volvo China Junior Match Play Championship.

Ye qualified again in Nansha Golf Club last year and repeated the feat just last month with an outright victory and qualification at Grand Hill Golf Club in Chengdu.

Zhang Jin bettered Ye’s 2007 victory by qualifying at Beijing Honghua Golf Club as a 14-year-old in 2010. Zhang also became the youngest player to compete in a Volvo China Open.

As amazing as these young qualifiers were, the whole of the golfing world sat up and took note when 12-year-old Ye Wo-cheng led the field after the first round at Woolong Valley Golf Club in Chengdu in 2012.

Ye eventually secured third place and went on to become the youngest player ever to compete in a European Tour event when he played in the 2013 Volvo China Open in Tianjin.

Guan Tianlang made his own peace of golfing history by becoming the youngest player ever to make the cut in a major when he played all four rounds in the US Masters at Augusta National in 2013.

However, it is worth pointing out Guan first played in the Volvo China Open Qualifying as a 12-year-old at Lion Lake Country Club and has played several times since then, qualifying at Kuaiji Mountain Golf Club in 2012.

A total of 22 golf clubs have hosted the qualifiers from Chengdu in the far west to Shanghai on the eastern coast, and from Qinhuangdau in the north down to Sanya in the very south of the country. 

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