Zhuhai, China: The US State of Illinois is proving a popular destination for young Chinese looking to make their way in the world of competitive golf. Chen Siyan, third at last week’s Zhuhai Hollywood Mansion Challenge, is entering her sophomore year at the University of Illinois, while Jiangxi native Li Jieni has committed to play for Northwestern University.
Both will be looking for strong showings at this week’s Golf Liquor Zhuhai Golden Gulf Challenge as the China LPGA Tour stages its second tournament of the year after a six-month break following the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus.
“I’ve learned a lot from professional events. I can see that the difference between me and the top professional players is on and around the greens,” said Chen, a 19-year-old from Hangzhou. “Seeing Yin Ruoning win last week and me finishing third boosted my confidence. It was a big step forward. I believe I am closer to a professional win.”
Chen, who moved to Florida as a 12-year-old, enjoyed an outstanding career as a junior, winning more than a dozen tournaments Stateside. After playing seven college events this year before the season was cancelled, she returned home and won the Huzhou stop of the Super Lychee Amateur Golf Series in June.
With the Colin Montgomerie-designed Zhuhai Golden Gulf Golf Club measuring 6,320 yards, Chen said this week’s tournament will be a tough test for her. “It’s longer than last week [at Zhuhai Orient]. Driving distance is not my advantage. I need to play better around the greens and make the most of my scoring opportunities at the par-fives and some short par-four holes,” she said.
Li, an 18-year-old from Nanchang, won last month’s Shanghai stop on the Super Lychee Amateur Golf Series. Last week, she finished 30th in Zhuhai, her third CLPGA Tour start.
With the fall golf season cancelled at Northwestern and unable to get a visa to travel to the US, Li is staying in China and taking courses online. She plans to play as many CLPGA Tour events as she can.
“The CLPGA is different from amateur or junior events. Every player is very diligent and focused. The competition is much fiercer. The players definitely are at a higher notch,” said Li, adding that it was always her intention to go through the US college route as a stepping stone to qualifying for the US LPGA Tour.
Also in the field is 17-year-old Lu Yuwen. The high-school senior has received a scholarship offer from California’s Stanford University and plans to go there next year.
“I am playing more events in China this summer because I can’t go to America at present. I am honored that I can play two CLPGA Tour events in a row,” said the teenager. “Yin and I are the same age. She is the role model who we look up to. She is always hard at work. She might have picked up golf later than me, but she is the CLPGA winner now.
“My dream is the LPGA. Now I just want to go to Stanford and have a degree, which is also important. I also want to play college events and have a high ranking. I believe those things would help me to qualify for the LPGA one day.”
Du Mohan goes into the week as defending champion, having won last year’s tournament by two strokes for her first pro title.