Dongguan, China: A fortnight after making international golfing headlines, teenager Kuang Yang will step into the limelight once more when he tops the bill at the 14th Faldo Series Shenzhen Championship.
Already well known within Chinese golfing circles following a spectacular run of domestic success, the 14-year-old schoolboy’s remarkable exploits in the European Tour’s Volvo China Open at the start of May earned him global acclaim and fame.
Watched by thronging galleries including his head teacher and class mates, Kuang snared a snaking, par-saving 20-foot putt on the 18th green at Genzon Golf Club to sign for a second-round 71 in the 25th anniversary edition of his country’s national Open.
In so doing, he wrote his name into golf’s history books as the second youngest player to make the cut in a European Tour event. On the back of that sensational performance, he soared more than 220 places into the top-1,000 in The R&A World Amateur Golf Ranking – underlining his burgeoning reputation as one of China’s brightest golfing prospects.
“My only aim when I started the tournament was to learn from it and perhaps make the cut. I was so relieved and happy when I made that putt on 18 – it was my dream and I wanted to celebrate,” said Kuang, who secured his starting place in the Open by winning the Volvo China Junior Match Play Championship last December.
“There was a lot of attention around us once we made the cut, but I really enjoyed it,” said Kuang, referring to the barrage of cameras and large galleries that toured the course with him for the final two rounds. “I enjoy having the crowd around me. I just have to enjoy the noise and have fun. I like the cheering and the noise!”
Although it’s likely to be somewhat more peaceful and sedate at Mission Hills this week, Kuang is focused on adding to his collection of silverware that includes victory in last year’s China National Junior Championship and a runner-up finish in the 2018 Mission Hills Junior Series Grand Final.
While that event took place on the Norman Course, the second leg of the 2019-20 Faldo Series Asia season will be played over the Rose-Poulter Course at Mission Hills’ Dongguan complex.
Six-time Major champion Sir Nick Faldo said: “Congratulations to Kuang Yang. To make the cut in a European Tour event at such a tender age is a truly remarkable effort. The fact that Li Haotong is doing so well on the PGA Tour and that we’re seeing talented youngsters such as Kuang Yang coming through the ranks reinforces my long-held belief that it’s only a matter of time before we witness a male Chinese Major champion.
“I know there are dozens of highly-rated teenage players in China now and the China Golf Association and Mission Hills have been instrumental in driving much of that success.
“Mission Hills’ Junior Golf Programme provides access to the sport for tens of thousands of juniors each year, from beginners to elite amateurs, through junior tournaments, coaching, camps and clinics and school classes. Juniors are given free access to three of its courses, which is a fabulous gesture from Mission Hills.”
An indication of the growing strength in depth in junior golf in China is evident from the make-up of the 108-strong entry list for this week’s event from which each of the five age-group winners will qualify for the 14th Faldo Series Asia Grand Final, to be hosted by Faldo at Vietnam’s Laguna Lăng Cô in March, 2020.
Among those teeing-off with an equally optimistic outlook as Kuang will be a trio of talented 12-year-olds – nationally ranked females Lin Xinen and Hao Wenyue and their male counterpart Huang Juqi.
Also expecting to contend are 13-year-old Zhang Zhenxian, winner of the overall boys’ title at last month’s Mission Hills Jack Nicklaus Championship, and defending Faldo Series China Championship winner Fu Yekai, a relative veteran at the age of 16.
Boosted by the first ‘ace’ of his competitive career, Fu took top spot in last year’s China Championship over the Blackstone Course at Mission Hills Haikou.
In addition to more than 80 mainland Chinese players, there will be an international flavour to the tournament with entrants also from Canada, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Malaysia and the United States.
The 2019-20 Faldo Series Asia season is supported by The R&A and endorsed by the Asian Tour and the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation. The International Junior Golf Academy is a partner of the Faldo Series.