China's Ye, 12, closes in on Euro Tour age record

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 March, 2013, 4:53am

Ye Wocheng is just 18 holes away from achieving his ambition of eclipsing Guan Tianlang's record as the youngest player to compete on the PGA European Tour after yesterday's opening round of four-under-par 68 in the Western China Qualifier for the Volvo China Open.

Ye stands alone in second place, one shot behind Li Xinyang at Wolong Valley Country Club in Chengdu.

"A year ago I decided to try break Guan's European Tour record, and I'm nearly there," said 12-year-old Ye, who picked up five birdies against a single bogey on the par-four 11th after a sliced tee shot found thick rough.

A year ago I decided to try break Guan's European Tour record, and I'm nearly there

"I drove the ball very well today but I didn't take advantage of my overall good play by holing more putts on the front nine. I putted quite well on the back nine, however," Ye added.

The youngster lives in Dongguan and is already a regular on the international junior golf circuit with numerous age-group wins to his credit. Victory in the US Kids World Junior Championship in San Diego in 2010 and 2011 was followed by a second-place finish there last year, and Ye holds the tournament record of 12 under par. Earlier this year, he won the Guangdong Junior Championships by a record 18 shots.

Ye credits his father, who caddied for him yesterday, for introducing him to the game.

"My dad was my first coach, so I owe him a lot for starting me off and helping me to develop my swing," said Ye. "He's a pretty good player himself - an eight handicap."

Three players share third place on two under par, including 14-year-old Jin Cheng, who made five birdies during a round of 70. Also on two-under 70 are Jin Daxing and Zhou Zhenbin, who was the only player in the field not to drop a shot to par.

The leaderboard after round one shows a clear message that the standard of junior golf in China is at an all time high, with Li, Ye and Jin having a combined age of just 42.