Haiyang, Shandong, China: ‘Carl’ Yuan Yechun closed with back-to-back birdies to secure a dramatic one-stroke victory at the Qingdao Championship and become the second amateur to win a PGA Tour Series-China title.
The 21-year-old Chinese started the day with a two-shot lead and carded an even-par 72 at Tiger Beach Golf Links to finish at six-under, one ahead of England’s Callum Tarren (69), who recorded his sixth runner-up finish in his last 11 PGA Tour Series-China events.
China’s Chen Zihao, playing in the sixth-last group, shot 68 to finish at four-under and share third place with England’s Michael Skelton (69) and Canadian Eugene Wong (70), a Tour winner in 2015 when he finished fifth on the Order of Merit.
Australian Max McCardle (74) was sixth on two-under, one ahead of China’s Yang Yinong (73) and Korean Kim Tae-woo (71), who finished fourth on the 2016 Order of Merit and played on last year’s Web.com Tour.
Yuan, who played college golf for the University of Washington for three years, was competing in Sunday’s final group for his third successive event on the Tour and was delighted to win after previous closing rounds of 71 left him tied 18th at last month’s Kunming Championship and joint third at last week’s Yantai Championship.
Today, he bogeyed the third and sixth and birdied the eighth to make the turn in 37, then birdied 12 and bogeyed 13 and 15 to fall back to four-under, one behind Tarren, who played in the third-last group and posted the clubhouse lead.
Yuan then chipped to four feet with his third shot on the par-five 17th and hit a great wedge approach to six feet on the par-four 18th to set up birdies, with Yuan screaming in delight after holing the winning putt.
“I’m so excited to get the win. This is my first win in a long time. I played very stable in the front nine and I knew I had to make two birdies on the last two holes and I made it!” said Yuan, who works with Sean Foley, Justin Rose’s coach.
Yuan was also pleased to become only the second amateur to win on the Tour and follow in the footsteps of long-time China team-mate Jin Cheng, who was 16 when he won the Nine Dragons Open in Zhejiang Province in November 2014. The pair will represent China in the upcoming Asian Games, which will be held in Indonesia from August 23-26.
“I’m very happy to be the second amateur winner on this Tour and it’s great for my preparation for the Asian Games. I’m still an amateur, but I’ve proved to myself that I can win a pro tournament, so it’s a great feeling,” Yuan said.
Despite being runner-up for the third time on the Tour this year, 27-year-old Tarren was happy with his finish in tricky weather and his frustration was eased by earning the winner’s purse of RMB270,000, which Yuan couldn’t accept as an amateur.
Callum, who started the week fifth on the Order of Merit, said: “I’m disappointed, but fortunately it’s still the winner’s cheque. That will really help me fly on the Order of Merit and puts me in a great spot to secure Web.com Tour status.”
Chen’s tie for third was his best result on the Tour since September 2016 when he finished runner-up for the third time.
“Today, my overall level of play was very good. I’m happy to achieve this result when there was so much wind,” said the 21-year-old.