Unheralded Wang Minghao bursts onto Asian circuit

Latest of growing field of Chinese upstarts gets down to business in Seoul

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 May, 2013, 12:13pm

A week ago Wang Minghao graduated from Georgia Tech in the US with a business degree, sealing an outstanding academic education that he earned on the back of a golf scholarship.

This weekend the Chinese 23-year-old is in Korea, rubbing shoulders with some of the best players in the Asia-Pacific, having made the cut in his first professional event just days after joining the paid ranks.

"It is quite a surprise to be here but I'm having a great time so far," said Wang - "Ming" to his friends - at OneAsia's GS Caltex Maekyung Open at the Namseoul Country Club near Seoul.

"I really had no expectations when I came here, I just wanted to get out there and see what I could do."

A first-round three-under-par 69 was followed by a topsy turvy 71 that included five birdies and an eagle to see him comfortably make the cut in joint 18th place and guarantee him a pay cheque regardless of what follows.

After firing a third-round 74 yesterday, Wang was two under par and 10 shots off the pace set by South Korea's Ryu Hyun-woo, who holds a one-shot lead ahead of compatriot Kim Hyung-sung.

In the past two months, the exploits of a seemingly endless procession of young Chinese golfers has left the golfing world agog.

Guan Tianlang raised eyebrows by qualifying for last month's US Masters as a 14-year-old by virtue of winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur Golf Championship last year - and then silenced critics by making the cut.

His achievement echoed that of Andy Zhang, who qualified for last year's US Open at the same age, becoming the youngest player to take part in that event.

Ye Wocheng became the youngest player to tee off in a European Tour or OneAsia event just last week when he started their co-sanctioned Volvo China Open. Although he missed the cut, fellow qualifier Dhou Zecheng, 16, finished in the middle of the field.

Wang has taken a far more orthodox route, although he can also boast a youthful claim to fame -playing five holes with Tiger Woods as a 12-year-old.

"I was the club age group champion at Mission Hills and that was the first course Tiger ever played in China and the chairman of the club asked me to play with him," Wang said.