‘It was fun until golf wasn’t fun,’ says Jason Hak as Chinese prodigies Jin Cheng and Lin Yuxin upstage local hope at Clearwater Bay Open
The 23-year-old refuses to blame a sore neck for his five-over 75 as Australia’s David Lutterus takes the lead on opening day
He enjoyed going around with two of China’s most promising young golfers but that was where the fun ended for local hope Jason Hak Shun-yat on the opening day of the Clearwater Bay Open.
Hak, playing with Jin Cheng and Lin Yuxin, finished on five-over-par 75 after four bogeys and a triple bogey on a day that saw Jin shoot five under to be just one stroke behind leader, Australia’s David Lutterus.
“It was fun until golf wasn’t fun. But I love playing with them, they’re great kids and they’re playing really well,” Hak said, refusing to blame neck soreness for his tough round.
“The way I hit it and the way I putted, I tried my best but some putts didn’t go in. As long as I’m still in it I can always do better, I’ll maybe go and hit a couple more balls and make myself feel good and then I’ll wake up tomorrow and do what I need to do.”
Jin, who won the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship at Clearwater Bay two years ago, was the star of the grouping, nailing seven birdies to share second with New Zealand’s Campbell Rawson.
But the 19-year-old was still in awe of his 17-year-old playing partner Lin, who sits on two under and collected an Asia-Pacific Amateur title of his own in Wellington last week.
“Yuxin is playing great, he didn’t make any putts but he still shot two under,” Jin said. “Last time I played with him I was outdriving him and now he is hitting it past me, it’s amazing how much he has improved.”
Jin clearly enjoyed returning to a course that holds such fond memories, capping his impressive opening round with an eagle on the 18th.
“I just tried to do the same thing as two years ago, enjoy the views, enjoy everything. I didn’t start that hot and that back nine really got me going,” said Jin, who was even par at the turn.
“Whenever I go to a course I just try to go low and it looks like I’m going low here. I’m still trying to play my best as always, good thing that the putter is working way better this week than last week [when he finished fifth in Wellington].”
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Veteran Derek Fung was the best of the Hongkongers on day one, landing three birdies to card a one-under 69.
Jin wasn’t the only player to eagle the 18th, with Lutterus also getting in on the act to ensure he enters day two leading the pack after carding a 64.
“The wind died down a little bit so I got lucky, if that’s into the wind it’s extremely tough but we got lucky,” the 32-year-old said about his dream finish.
“It was a nice way to finish, I got a little lucky on that second shot, blocked it but it hit the slope and ran back.”
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Lutterus has been playing in America throughout 2017, including some Web.com tournaments, and was relieved to turn his fortunes around after a rough trot.
“I was playing solidly all year, but to be honest the last couple months I played terribly so it was a nice little change today,” he said as he aims to better his fifth place in last year’s Open.