12-year-old Ye sets European Tour record
CHENGDU, China (AP) A 12-year-old Chinese boy will become the youngest player ever to compete in a European Tour event after qualifying for the Volvo China Open.
Ye Wocheng finished third Wednesday in one of the four 36-hole regional qualifiers for the China Open, which starts May 2 and is jointly sanctioned by the European Tour.
He carded a 68 despite three-putting his last two holes on Tuesday at the Wolong Valley Country Club, and had a 2-over 74 on Wednesday to finish three shots behind Jin Daxing and Li Xinyang with a two-round total of 142
Ye, a member of the Hillview Golf Club in Dongguan, is set to break the record held by Guan Tianlang, who was 13 when he played in the China Open last year.
Ye said he'd been thinking for a year about breaking the European Tour set by Guan, another Chinese player who later won the Asian amateur title in November at age 14 to become the youngest qualifier ever for the Masters.
Ye said he was nervous Wednesday morning, but he didn't show it as he birdied the first two holes to move into the lead at 7 under.
"I couldn't have got off to a much better start," Ye said. "I actually slept very well last night, so I was really looking forward to the round. My dad told me to just relax and enjoy it, but it was actually quite a nerve-wracking day."
Ye dropped shots at the 11th and 14th holes, but made a birdie at the par-3 15th .
According to the China Open organizers, a sliced drive on the par-5 16th resulted in a recovery shot from the trees, but Ye was penalized two shots and had to take an 8 on the hole instead of a bogey.
"I didn't realize I'd broken the rules on 16, I thought I'd made bogey there," Ye said. "Fortunately I had enough strokes in hand to qualify in spite of that, so in the end it didn't really matter."
Ye dropped another shot on his last hole but it was still enough to get one of the three qualifying spots from the Western China qualifier.
"Playing in a European Tour event will be a whole new experience for me so I'll be practicing very hard," Ye said. "I will also be doing some gym work to get stronger."
Ye's coach David Williams said it was only a matter of time before his young student had an important breakthrough.
"He's been shooting in the 60s regularly over the past few months so I am not surprised at all to see him qualify for the European Tour," Williams said. "We made it our goal to train hard and to focus on breaking Guan Tianlang's record, and now that goal has been achieved."
European Tour tournament director Mikael Eriksson congratulated Ye "for a remarkable performance."
Updated March 20, 2013
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