Huangshan, China: ‘Bobby’ Bai Zhengkai fired a final-round five-under 67 to secure a two-stroke victory over American David Kocher at the Huangshan Championship, a tournament reduced to 54 holes due to bad weather in the opening two days.
It was Bai’s first win as a professional and the first victory by a player from China in 2019.
At Hidden Tiger Golf Club, Bai started the day four shots behind Kocher but managed to turn things around. After making the turn at even-par, Bai racked up five birdies on the back nine to finish at 12-under. Over his three rounds, Bai was 12-under and bogey-free on the back nine.
“I thought if I played okay on the front nine, then I could have a chance today. I shot seven-under on the back nine in the first two rounds, so I thought I could have another good run on the back nine again,” said Bai. “I really enjoy the back nine, and I played it great again. I chipped in on 14, which was huge for me and helped give me the boost to win.”
Bai played three years at the University of Central Florida in Orlando but decided to forego his senior year to turn pro, which he did last month ahead of the European Tour’s Volvo China Open.
Bai is weighing whether to return to school to finish his degree in finance or whether to keep playing as a full-time professional. “It’s awesome to win for my country. It really means a lot,” said Bai, who rose to ninth on the Order of Merit in only his third PGA Tour Series-China tournament.
He can now legitimately think about gaining access to the Korn Ferry Tour, that offers 2020 membership to the top-five money-winners at the end of the season and invitations to the Qualifying Tournament to those inside the top 10.
With PGA Tour Series-China observing a break in its schedule, Bai will return to the US until action resumes. “My plan now is to play a few Korn Ferry Tour Monday qualifiers and a few more PGA Tour Series-China events. After that I’m not sure. I know I still have to do the schoolwork, but I also want to keep playing.”
For Kocher, defeat was a tough pill to swallow. After holding a three-shot lead to start the day, the American failed to get any momentum going. As a consolation, his second-place finish moved him to the top of the Order of Merit.
“It’s not the round I wanted, but it was still a great tournament. I played great in the first two days but just didn’t hit it well today,” said Kocher. “I’m still very happy with the way I hung in there and it feels good to be number one on the Order of Merit. I can’t be too disappointed.”