DREAM DEBUT FOR WU IN SOFITEL SEASON OPENER
Rookie professional Wu Kangchun signalled the start of a new era on the Omega China Tour when he beat decorated veteran Zhang Lianwei to win the US$100,000 Sofitel Golf Championship, on Sunday.
The former top amateur made it a memorable maiden appearance as a professional in the season-opening event after winning by four strokes at Zhongshan International Golf Club in Nanjing.
Wu fired a final round of three-under-par 69 over the Gary Player-designed championship course to finish the tournament on nine-under-par 279.
Reigning Omega Order of Merit champion Zhang also closed with a 69, while Yuan Hao carded a 75 to finish two strokes further back.
Ye Jianfeng, the 15-year-old wonder kid, finished in fourth place - the best finish by an amateur since the Tour was inaugurated in 2005.
Wu had started the day sharing the lead with Yuan and after a poor one over par front nine he catapulted himself into a four-shot lead with a birdie on 10, eagle on 11 and another birdie on 13.
“I am really excited to win my first professional event. Even after the 13th I wasn’t very comfortable, and sure enough I dropped a shot on the 15th. However, when I recovered with a birdie on the 16th I knew I had won,” said the 25-year-old Wu.
Wu only turned professional this year after competing for China in the past two Asian Games. However, the signs were there that he would be a threat this year on Tour when he produced strong performances to make the cut in the Volvo China Open and Beijing Open on the Asian Tour.
“Playing in the national amateur team for a number of years has given me a lot of discipline. Without that I would not be here today holding this trophy,” added the man from Zhuhai.
Wu earned a cheque for US$19,470 and a wealth of confidence as one of the newest members of the mainland’s rapidly increasing number of talented professionals.
None of his peers could get close to him on the homeward stretch while Zhang, a four-time winner on the Tour, produced a typically strong final round to finish runner up.
“My putting has been bad all week and it was bad again today. The greens are slower than I have been used to recently and they are also undulating. If I had putted better I think I could have won the tournament. I had a good back nine today (with three birdies) but it was not enough,” said Zhang.
The 42 year old was full of praise for the surprise package of the week Shenzhen-based Ye, whom he was paired with on the final day.
”Ye Jianfeng did really well. He is a good player already and in two or three years after more tournament experience he will be very good. He is young and quite small but can hit it long. His putting is also one of his strengths,” added Zhang.
Ye hit the headlines after leading at the halfway point before carding successive 73s.
“I feel quite disappointed. Today my putting was a little bit off and my chipping was bad. I did not have a good feeling out there today, I do not know why. It is the best finish by an amateur in an Omega China Tour event so I am proud about that. I did not feel nervous playing with Zhang Lianwei. I practice with him quite a bit and he is like a friend,” said Ye.
The Tour’s next event is the Qingdao Leg at Qingdao Huashan Golf Club from May 31 to June 3.