Shanghai, China: Cao Sen produced a sensational finish to claim a thrilling victory in the seventh edition of the Faldo Series Shanghai Championship.
Defying heavy rain, Cao followed up a birdie-two at the short 17th at Suzhou Taihu International Golf Club by holing a long putt for an eagle-three at the home hole to clinch an unlikely one-stroke success.
Thanks to that dramatic late flourish, Cao signed for a closing one-under-par 71 to go with his first-round 73.
With a 36-hole aggregate of even-par 144, Cao ended one shot ahead of Hong Jie and two strokes in front of first-round leader He Xinyi who placed third overall in the third leg of the 2014-15 Faldo Series Asia season.
The 16-year-old Cao, who hails from the southern province of Guangdong, was perfectly at home at Taihu International, located 80 kilometres west of Shanghai in Jiangsu Province.
Now he will progress to the Asia Grand Final, to be hosted by Sir Nick Faldo at Mission Hills Golf Club in China next March.
There he will be joined by age group winners He Xinyi (Girls Under-21), Liu Yiyuan (Girls Under-16) and Hong Jie (Boys Under-18). To the delight of the host club, He and Hong are both students at the Taihu Golf Academy.
But it was Cao who captured the headlines after a topsy-turvy final round that began with a chip-in for an eagle-three at the first before stuttering with three bogeys in four holes from the third.
Two-over through 16, Cao trailed He by four shots and Hong by three and seemed destined for a minor placing. But He ended with back-to-back bogeys to slip to a 75 (146) and Hong could only manage two closing pars for a 73 (145).
Meanwhile, buoyed by a birdie at 17, Cao found the putting surface in two at 18 and proceeded to complete an astonishing turnaround by snaring the eagle putt.
Supported by The R&A, ISPS and Mission Hills and endorsed by the Asian Tour and the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation, the 2014-15 Faldo Series Asia campaign will stretch over 11 months and be made up of a minimum of 20 championships.
Faldo Series Shanghai Championship, leading final scores: Boys’ Under-18: 145 – Hong Jie (72-73). 151 – Tony Chen (75-76). 160 – Chen Zhao (80-80). Boys’ Under-16: 144 – Cao Sen (73-71). 152 – Chen Geyi (77-75). 156 – Bai Xiangrui (77-79). Girls’ Under-21: 146 – He Xinyi (71-75). 147 – Song Yilin (72-75). 154 – Wang Xiyue (74-80). Girls’ Under-16: 152 – Liu Yiyuan (77-75). 155 – Hou Jintong (79-76). 156 – Quan Ronghui (79-77).