Teenage prodigies aim to take it to the pros again

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 April, 2007, 12:00am

Two exciting 15-year-olds - one from China, the other from Taiwan - will have a big following at the Open this week.

Ye Jianfeng beat more than 60 players - most of them professionals - at the CBD Golf Club in Beijing last week to earn his place in the field.

Three weeks earlier, Pan Cheng-tsung beat all but one professional in the first ever international qualifying event at the Discovery Bay Golf Club in Hong Kong.

Jianfeng and Cheng-tsung know each other well and will no doubt have their own personal challenge this week. Jianfeng finished second in the World Junior Championship in San Diego last year, while Cheng-tsung was 10th. In 2005, Cheng-tsung finished second and Jianfeng fourth. Cheng-tsung also claimed a silver medal at the Doha Asian Games last December, and helped the Taiwanese team to the bronze.

Shenzhen-born Jianfeng came to prominence two years ago when he won his age group in the Volvo China Junior Championship in Beijing.

'I just want to play golf in China. I like the weather here and I have everything I need,' he said. 'I will go to college in China and will see how things develop with golf. I'm not dreaming of turning pro. I'll just wait and see what happens.'

Compatriot Han Ren, who secured his place through the Shanghai qualifier last week, became the first Chinese to win a scholarship to a US university - Indiana State.

'I've played a lot of American Junior Golf Association events and they have helped me to improve my ability to score well,' said Han, 18. 'There are so many good junior players in the US that it feels like a pro event each time I play.'

Introduced to the game by his father when he was only 11, Han took to the game easily, and one year later played two holes with Tiger Woods when the world number one visited Mission Hills Golf Club in Shenzhen.

Han went to school in Vancouver, Canada, when he was 13, but decided to play junior golf in the US. 'I knew it would be much tougher competition in the US, but I also knew it would help me to develop a lot faster,' he said.

Cheng-tsung will become the youngest player to compete in the China Open at just 15 years and five months of age.

Cheng-tsung shot rounds of 69 and 68 to take second place overall, while his 18-year-old brother, Fu-chiang, also grabbed one of the four places available at the Discovery Bay qualifier.



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