Chinese Players Chase Dreams on Futures Tour

By Lisa D. MickeyMay 3, 2004, 4:00 pm
Futures TourWhen three Chinese women were handpicked two years ago to come to America to train as professional golfers, they never dreamed their personal goals would matter to anyone else or would bring such early success. But when Hong Mei Yang, one of the three selected to represent a population of more than 1.2 billion, won last week on the Futures Golf Tour, you could nearly hear the fireworks erupting an ocean away.
They will become like the Houston Rockets Yao Ming in basketball and they will have a very big impact in China for womens golf, predicted James Chen, who coaches the trio at Oak Valley Golf Academy in Beaumont, Calif. These three are the first, the pioneers.
The three players -- all from the Peoples Republic of China -- truly are the first to play professional golf in the United States, where all three qualified for the Futures Golf Tour last fall. Their supersize homeland has less than 40 women who are golf professionals and only three -- Yang of Si Chuan, Chun Wang of Beijing, and Li Chun Zhang of Ji Lin, China, earned the privilege to leave their country to pursue careers as touring professionals. That concept is difficult for most of their compatriots to grasp.
We are lucky, said Chun, 26, who studied foreign trade economics at Beijing University and speaks the best English of the three. We started to play golf at age 20. When we are in China, if we say we are pros, people say, Oh really? They are surprised.
Perhaps their countrymen will be more surprised at the result of their labor. Yang, 28 and Zhang, 29, are older than the average Futures Tour player, but their careers have just begun and their respective work ethic points to future successes that are guaranteed to kick down barriers and open doors for women throughout China. The trio could have the same impact on their nation as Korean LPGA pro Se Ri Pak had on her homeland back in 1998, bringing others to the game and to America to compete on the worlds largest professional womens tour.
Natalie Wong of Montebello, Calif., a first-generation Chinese-American who plays on the Futures Tour, traveled to China in February to play in that nations first professional womens tournament. The event, co-sponsored by the West Coast Ladies Golf Tour and Oak Valley Golf Academy, had 30 U.S. players and 30 from China.
Most of the Chinese players were teaching pros because they have no opportunity to play tournaments, said Wong, a fourth-year pro and Yale University graduate. This was the first tournament and the top players at that event earned scholarships to come to the U.S. to train. It was a big deal there and everybody knew who these three players were.
Yang won that inaugural event and made an impression on the American pros who traveled to China for the tournament.
They havent had much tournament experience, but all three of them are accomplished players, said first-year Futures Tour player Kim Rowton of San Antonio, Texas, who traveled to China for the event. They definitely are paving the way for others.
At the Futures Tour Qualifying Tournament last November, Zhang tied for fifth, Yang tied for 24th and Chun finished 81st of 300 players. Yang finished fourth in the LPGAs Sectional Qualifier in Venice, Fla., but missed the 54-hole cut in the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament. When she fired an 11-under-par score of 205 for a personal best to win last weeks IOS Futures Golf Classic in El Paso, Texas, a number of players were knowingly shaking their heads.
Im not surprised at all, said Futures Tour player Brenna Cepelak of Albuquerque, N.M., who also made the February trip to China. These players work really hard every day. Its a dream for them and they will make the most of this opportunity.
They already have. Chun was a swimmer and played badminton before she took up golf five years ago. Yang was a basketball player and has been playing golf for nine years. And Zhang began playing golf nearly 10 years ago. All three became professionals after working at golf courses as caddies or as attendants at driving ranges. When Yang caddied for the winner of the 1995 Volvo China Open, her supervisor at an electronics factory where she worked granted permission for her to pursue her interest in the game.
But it hasnt been easy. Golf is very expensive in China. Many families are poor and live in agricultural areas where golf is not available or they live in large, densely populated cities where space is too limited for proper training facilities. But what many of the nations women players lack in money, technology and opportunity, they make up for in determination.
These three players who are here now are very disciplined, hard-working women and their potential is unlimited, said Chen of his students, all of whom averaged scoring in the high-70s and low-80s as recently as two years ago. In Chinese society, women are treated as second-class citizens. This is a way for them to see that they can be more.
And when Yang won last week, Chen was particularly pleased. This tells us we are doing the right things to help them progress, he said.
Three more Chinese women professionals will arrive in California this week to train with Chen at the academy. Their goal will be to qualify for the Futures Tour or LPGA Tour this fall. The original trio, who plan to play a full schedule on the Futures Tour this year, hope to earn their LPGA Tour cards for 2005. They share an apartment in California and a car when they play tournaments. Chun, who helped Yang deliver her champions speech on the 18th green this past Sunday, says they help each other achieve their goals.
We have to go away from home and let others follow, said Chun. Thats our job. We tell our friends to come here and try ' to come here to be a professional.

Def. champ Fitzpatrick grabs lead at Euro finale

By Associated Press, Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 1:50 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Defending champion Matthew Fitzpatrick shot a second straight 5-under-par 67 to secure a one-stroke lead halfway through the European Tour's season-ending Tour Championship on Friday.

At 10 under after two rounds on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estate, Fitzpatrick leads English compatriot Tyrrell Hatton, whom he beat by one shot to win the title last year.

Hatton moved into contention with a brilliant 9-under 63, a round soured only by a closing bogey on the par-5 18th hole.

In the Race to Dubai, main protagonists Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose experienced contrasting emotions to their opening rounds. Fleetwood boosted his chances by rising into a tie for 11th at 6 under after a 65. Rose endured a three-putt bogey on the 18th to finish with a 70, and dropped on the leaderboard so he's just two shots ahead of Fleetwood.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Order of Merit, stayed in contention by adding a 69 to his opening 70 to be one shot behind Fleetwood.

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Fleetwood needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

Fitzpatrick made two bogeys but eagled the 14th, and five birdies contributed to his 67.

Overnight leader Patrick Reed is now three back following an even-par 72. Reed is in the field thanks to a European Tour regulation that allows the Presidents Cup to count as an official event, thus allowing him to meet his quota of tournaments played.

Fitzpatrick was helped immensely also by the 18th, where Hatton, Rose, and Reed all made bogeys. Fitzpatrick birdied the hole for a second straight day with a 25-foot putt.

''I said to my caddie, we were putting really, really well all week so far,'' Fitzpatrick said.

''The thing is, you get so many fast putts around here, even uphill into the green, they are still running at 12, 13 (on the stimpmeter) even. You've just got to be really sort of careful. Every putt is effectively a two-putt. You've got to control your pace well and limit your mistakes, because it's easy to three-putt out here.''

Rose, hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey, was disappointed with his finish despite playing solid golf from tee to green.

''To make six (on 18) just ends the day on the wrong note, but other than that, I played really well on the back nine,'' Rose said.

''I was aware of the scores and who had done what today. But listen, halfway stage, I'd probably have signed up for that if somebody said on Wednesday you would be in this position after two rounds. It's a position you can build on the weekend.''

Fleetwood resurrected his chances of winning the Order of Merit with a 65, eight shots better than his opening round. His only bogey of the day came on the seventh after an errant drive, but that was the only mistake on a solid day that saw him make eight birdies.

Fleetwood spent hours on the putting green after his first round.

''I needed a low one today for (a tournament win and the Order of Merit),'' he said. ''Luckily, I got a good score.''

Closing eagle gives Kirk 1-shot lead in RSM

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 12:16 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - Chris Kirk holed an 18-foot putt for eagle on his final hole for a 9-under 63 and a one-shot lead Thursday in the RSM Classic.

Kirk played the par 5s on the Plantation Course at Sea Island Golf Club in 5 under.

''I kind of hit my putter on the fringe a little bit and I wasn't sure it was going to get there, but that was just kind of the day that it was,'' Kirk said. ''Even when I thought it wasn't quite going to work out, it still went in the middle of the hole.''

The seven lowest scores of the opening round came on the Plantation Course during a picturesque afternoon on the Golden Isles. Sporting a University of Georgia hat Thursday, Kirk won at Sea Island four years ago for the second of his four PGA Tour victories.

''It's a big Georgia territory out here on St. Simons,'' Kirk said. ''Hopefully, my hat will bring me some luck the rest of the week.''

The tournament is the final PGA Tour event of the calendar year, and Kirk is sorting out equipment changes.

''I'm still trying to get it all worked out and figure out what I want to do going forward,'' Kirk said. ''But keep shooting 9 under, so I won't have to worry about it too much.'

Joel Dahmen had a 64.

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''I think it played a little easier today,'' Dahmen said. ''The wind was down, greens were a little softer over here on the Plantation side. But just kept the ball in front of me and made a bunch of 8- to 10-footers.

''I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

Sea Island resident Hudson Swafford was at 65 at the Plantation along with Jason Kokrak and Brian Gay.

''I feel like I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

He played alongside fellow former Georgia players Bubba Watson and Brian Harman.

''We are right in the heart of Dawgs' territory, mine and Harman's backyard, so it's kind of nice,'' Swafford said.

Though, his caddie wore an Auburn shirt.

''We don't need to talk about that,'' said Swafford, not needing to be reminded that Auburn beat Georgia in football last week.

Nick Watney and Brice Garnett each had a 5-under 65 on the Seaside Course, which will be used for the final two rounds.

Brandt Snedeker opened with a 67 in his first return from a sternum injury that sidelined him since the Travelers in June.

Harman shot 69, and Watson had a 71.

Co-leader Smith credits Foley's influence

By Randall MellNovember 16, 2017, 11:33 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sarah Jane Smith is making the most of the devoted efforts of Sean Foley this week.

Foley’s prize pupil, Justin Rose, is in the hunt at the World Tour Championship in the United Arab Emirates, looking to win the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, but Foley isn’t there with him.

Foley promised to help Smith this week, and he’s living up to the pledge, making the trip to Naples.

“At 33, Sarah is in her prime,” Foley told “She is going to hold a trophy at some point. She is too skilled not to win.”

Foley's extra attention is paying off for Smith.

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With a 6-under-par 66, Smith moved into early contention to make her first LPGA title memorable at the CME Group Tour Championship. She’s tied for the first-round lead with Taiwan rookie Peiyun Chien.

“I just seem to play my best with him,” Smith said.

Foley, the former coach to Tiger Woods, was No. 10 in Golf Digest’s Top 100 teacher rankings released this fall.

Foley sees a lot coming together in Smith’s game. She is a 12-year veteran building some momentum. She tied for third at the Women’s Australian Open earlier this year and is coming off three consecutive top-15 finishes in Asia. She is sixth on tour in birdies this season. 

“As a coach, you try to get a player to see something in themselves that is already there,” Foley said.

Rose, by the way, opened with a 6-under-par 66 in Dubai and is one shot off the lead.

Seeking awards sweep, Park 1 off lead

By Randall MellNovember 16, 2017, 11:03 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park made a strong start in her bid to make LPGA history with an epic sweep of the year’s major awards.

Park opened the CME Group Tour Championship Thursday with a 5-under-par 67, moving her a shot off the lead.

Park is looking to join Nancy Lopez as the only players to win the Rolex Player of the Year and Rolex Rookie of the Year awards in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park has already clinched the Rookie of the Year Award.

Park, 24, can also walk away with the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Race to the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot.

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Nobody has ever swept all those awards.

There’s even more for Park to claim. She can also take back the Rolex world No. 1 ranking. She’s No. 2, just two hundredths of a point behind Shanshan Feng.

“I think the course suits my game really well,” Park said through a translator. “I think I can play well in the next rounds.”

Park played the course just once before Thursday’s start, in Wednesday’s pro-am.

The reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion, Park won twice this year. She also won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open this summer.