A 12-year-old golfer from China redefined the time-worn adage “if you are good enough, you are old enough” by becoming the youngest player to qualify for a European Tour event.
With his father on the bag, Ye Wocheng, a schoolboy from the city of Dongguan in China’s Guangdong Province, negotiated the Western China qualifier in a two-under total of 142 to claim the last of three places for the Volvo China Open at Binhai Lake Golf Club in May.
After opening with a 68, Ye was leading the qualifier with nine holes to play before nerves crept in. He dropped shots on 11 and 14, but, after a birdie at 15, he held on to beat the record of his compatriot, Guan Tianlang, who qualified for last year’s China Open aged 13.
Golf is one of the fastest growing sports in the country. Last year, 14-year-old Andy Zhang qualified for the US Open and 16-year-old Jing Yan for the Women’s British Open. There are an estimated 380,000 adult members at more than 500 golf courses across China.
The total number of players is thought to amount to more than 3 million, a remarkable rise since the first course opened only 29 years ago, and a further example of the trend towards westernisation among China’s rising middle class.