Teenager Zeng Aims to Rise to Zhuhai Challenge

Zeng Liqi has her sights set on victory in Zhuhai this week. Picture by China LPGA.

Zhuhai, China: A week after 15-year-old Zhang Yahui won the CTBC Zhuhai Challenge to become the youngest winner on the China LPGA Tour, Zeng Liqi, another top amateur, is aiming to eclipse the mark when the Guowei Centre Plaza Zhuhai Challenge tees off today. 

With two wins on the China amateur circuit in 2020 and four top-10 finishes against pro fields this year, Zeng, who is three months younger than Zhang, is a player to watch.

Currently 92nd in The R&A’s World Amateur Golf Ranking, the Nanchang native comes into the RMB500,000 tournament after finishing equal third last week, one shot shy of joining the play-off that saw Zhang Yahui defeat pro Zhang Yue at the first hole of sudden-death. 

“I was close again last week. I played from the last group and missed two great birdie chances down the stretch, which is frustrating,” said the teenager who was runner-up at the Nanshan Ladies Golf Challenge in April. “I know what my problem was. My mind wandered from time to time during the play. It takes plenty of time to set it right. I need patience to do it.”

Zeng’s rise is impressive considering that golf is not popular in her native province, Jiangxi, where there are only three courses, two in her hometown. As a seven-year-old, she finished fourth at her first junior event. At her next event, a national-level HSBC junior tournament, she finished last.

Undeterred, Zeng continued to work hard with the encouragement of her father. Now, whether playing against pro or amateur competition, she views each tournament as a learning experience. 

“The pro players are seniors who play with a wealth of experience, which is a gap between us. However, it is possible to be in the mix if you play your best game,” she said.

Another player looking to go one better this week at Orient Zhuhai is 20-year-old Zhang Yue, who has posted three top-five finishes in her rookie season.

“I tried to learn what’s wrong from last week. I had no troubles with my long game or approach shots; it’s all about my putting. I missed some putts from short range in the final round,” said the Hainan native. 

“This is my first time at this golf course. The fairways are very narrow but the conditions are fairly good considering the course was closed because of rainstorms. My first-year goal is a fairly high ranking on the money list. I definitely need to improve my putting to make it,” she said.

On her maiden pro start, Yin Ruoning won last year’s tournament by one stroke over Du Mohan when the event was played as the Zhuhai Hollywood Mansion Challenge. The Shanghai teenager, who won three straight events to start her pro career, is unable to defend this week as she is Stateside attempting to qualify for the US LPGA Tour. 

Zhang Yahui is also conspicuous by her absence having committed to an amateur event prior to her win last week. 

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