Chinese amateur champion Ding Wenyi picked up where he left off last year at the Volvo China Open, posting a first round 3-under par 69 for a share of the lead in Shenzhen on Thursday. The talented 17-year-old from Beijing finished runner-up in 2020 behind China Tour Order of Merit leader Zhang Huilin, and has already tasted victory on the tour this season. Despite struggling off the tee, Ding’s short game came to the rescue. “I wasn’t satisfied with my tee shots today, however I made some really good putts,” he said. “I’m reading the greens much better this year, and if I’d driven the ball better I think I could have shot at least five under par.” Ding, who won the China Amateur Open in both 2019 and 2020, made just one bogey in his first round, and should he go on to claim the title on Sunday night would become the first amateur winner of the prestigious event, which is now in its 27th year. Liu Yanwei also took full advantage of the ideal weather conditions and local knowledge to shoot a 69 to join Ding at the top of the leader board. No stranger to the Genzon Golf Club course, Liu finished third in last year’s and was 11th at the 2017 Shenzhen International, when the event was part of the former European Tour. “My long game was really solid today and I didn’t make any big mistakes,” said Liu, who turned professional in 2017 at the age of 17. “There was hardly any wind today so that really helped, particularly on the final two holes, which both play over water. As this is the final event of the year I came early to practice, but I’m not thinking about the ranking right now as I can’t control what the other players will do.” A two-under par 70 for @haotong_li on the opening day of the 27th Volvo China Open https://t.co/RoTOMlfoHE — Volvo China Open (@VolvoChinaOpen) December 16, 2021 Liu currently stands third on the tour’s order of merit, the winner of which on will receive a full card to play on the DP World Tour in 2022. The top five in the rankings all have a chance to win the title, but must win this week to claim the coveted card. Li Haotong, the China Open champion in Beijing in 2016, held a share of the lead for much of the morning, but made two bogeys on the back nine to finish at 2-under. “I really didn’t drive the ball at all well today, so I could not give myself more chances for birdie,” the 26-year-old said. “I didn’t give myself a target score as I haven’t played in a tournament for quite some time, but I did some good work in the middle of the round where I made four birdies in five holes.” Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s Jason Hak Shun-yat struggled, and despite making six birdies shot a 1-over 73 to finish the day in a tie for 20th, four shots off the pace.