Wisat and Im lead charge for Beijing berths
The fog disappeared at the Discovery Bay Golf Club yesterday and into view came two likely qualifiers for the US$2.2 million Volvo China Open.
Thailand's Wisat Arjanawat and Korean-American Daniel Im still had to battle strong winds - a day after fog disrupted most of the practice session - but emerged four stokes clear of the 80-strong field as they chase four of the qualifying spots for the national open in Beijing. Wisat and Im both shot six-under 66s as 14 players matched or bettered par in the opening round.
Wisat believes a par (72) round today will clinch a spot in the China Open, which will be played at the Beijing CBD International Golf Club from April 17-20.
'My short iron play was very hot today; that really was the key to my round,' said the 26-year old Wisat, who won the individual title in the 2004 Putra Cup in Indonesia, and was also part of the winning team.
'I played the Discovery Bay course in the Hong Kong Junior Championship about 10 years ago, and I also competed in this event last year so I have a pretty good idea of how to play the course,' Wisat said. 'I think if I shoot par tomorrow I'll earn a place in Beijing.'
Im was surprised to find himself at the top of the leaderboard. 'I came to Asia two weeks ago to visit my grandparents in Korea because I haven't been over here for 11 years,' said the 22-year-old from California.
'I brought my golf clubs so I could hit balls on the range, but I didn't expect to be playing in a tournament until I learned about this event from the China Open website just after I arrived in Korea.'
With his father, Daewon, acting as caddie, Im is now looking forward to making his first visit to the mainland, should he maintain his form in today's final round.
'My plan is to go to the Canadian Tour qualifying school next month, but if I make it thought to Beijing and win that tournament I'd love to play the European Tour,' said Im.
Hong Kong's Dominique Boulet led the home charge with a one-over 73. He needs a low score today to have any chance.
Road to Beijing
This many golfers are hoping to clinch one of four places in the Volvo China Open at the qualifying event in Discovery Bay: 80