Jin on fire

Jin on fire
MILESTONE: Jin Cheng’s eight-under 62 beat the old course record by two shots.
PHOTO: Reuters

He sparkled at the 2012 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) and went on to make headlines at the 2013 US Masters tournament where he made the cut as a 14-year-old.

But China's Guan Tianlang was outshone by countryman Jin Cheng yesterday here at Hong Kong's Clearwater Bay Golf & Country Club, after the latter stormed into the lead following the opening round of the 2015 AAC with some glorious play.

The 17-year-old Jin blitzed the par-70 course on the back of a fiery five-hole streak that produced four birdies and an eagle, seeing him end the day on eight-under 62 to sit alone at the top of the leaderboard.

A 90-minute rain delay held up the opening day's proceedings in the morning, with 27 golfers in the 120-strong field still unable to finish the round as daylight ran out, but Jin's performance was extra special.

The Chinese teenager's score beat the old course record by two strokes and was also the best score carded by any amateur in the seven-year history of the event.

"It has been a great day for me and the score was beyond my expectation," said Jin.

"I didn't know it was a house record, but eight-under is my lowest tournament score. I went seven under a lot of times, but this is my first time shooting a 62."

Singapore's Gregory Foo was also in fine form, pulling off a bogey-free round to end the day in second spot with a six-under 64.

New Zealand's Nick Voke is on course to match the round and will come out early today to complete his final two holes .

FOCUSED FOO

Foo stepped off the course beaming from ear to ear.

"A bogey-free round is really pleasing, I don't get many of those. And if you told me at the start of the day that I'd finish second, I'd definitely take it," he said, still smiling.

"Conditions were score-able today and I knew if I just got the ball on the fairway and made my putts I'd be fine, and I'm glad I managed that."

The 21-year-old's previous best finish in the AAC was tied for 38th, when Singapore hosted the event in 2011.

This performance has given a real chance at victory and the coveted ticket to the Masters, but Foo is focused on keeping his head in the game, even as the forecast is for windier conditions over the next few days.

"Sure, that thought will be at the back of my mind but, I know once I step up to the tee box, I'll be taking things hole by hole," Foo said.

"I'll have to use different shots, but I think I've prepared well and, even if winds do pick up, I'll be fine - just have to focus on getting the ball on the green."

Jin, meanwhile, is hoping to follow in the footsteps of 16-year-old Guan, whose win in the 2012 tournament earned him the right to play at the 2013 Masters.

In his opening round yesterday, Guan managed only a two-under 68 and is tied for 23rd position, with the only other former AAC winner in the field, Antonio Murdaca, also falling off the pace.

The Australian won the 2014 edition, but started his title defence in shocking fashion, carding a double-bogey at the par-five second hole, eventually finishing on 69 and tied for 29th.

Abdul Hadi was the Republic's next best performer, carding a 67.

The second round continues today, with only 60 (with ties) making the cut for the weekend's final rounds.


This article was first published on October 2, 2015.
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