GUANGZHOU, China—Chinese amateur Zhijie “Tony” Jiang fired six birdies and one bogey on his way to an opening 5-under 66 and a one-shot lead after the first round of the PGA TOUR Series-China Mainland China Qualifying Tournament.
The 21-year-old Jiang leads the 90-player field at Foison Golf Club, with Yu Fang close behind, at 4-under. In total, there are more amateurs than professionals in the field, with 46 players currently playing as amateurs. The top-15 players this week will be fully exempt for the 2020 PGA TOUR Series-China season, while finishers between 16th and 45th, and ties, will earn conditional status.
Jiang, who is a senior at Rutgers University, couldn’t have asked for a better start. Starting on hole 10, Jiang picked up birdies at 11, 14 and 16. He then made the turn and added birdies at Nos. 2, 5 and 6 before dropping his only shot on his last hole of the day.
“Today, my strategy was to try and be as stable as possible. I think I played really well today, and except for the last hole, I was pretty pleased with how the day went,” said Jiang. “My putting was really great and I saw a lot of long putts drop that sometimes don’t. I also hit a very high percentage of fairways off the tee with no mistakes.”
Despite still having to finish one semester of college, Jiang is in China hoping to get a head start on his pro career and earn a full card on a PGA TOUR-sanctioned Tour.
“I am still in college but if I can earn my card, I will focus on playing on this Tour as much as possible after graduation,” said Jiang, who says he draws inspiration from Chinese players who have turned pro. “Haotong Li is a few years older than me, but he is now playing on the world’s biggest stages. Yechun Yuan and Zhengkai Bai are also in the U.S. now, so I am very happy for them and I hope I can also achieve my dream with the help of the PGA TOUR Series-China.”
Amateurs Aaron Du and Junyi Tang lie in a tie for third, at 2-under, along with professional Hao Yuan. Yaqiao Li lies sixth, at 1-under, one shot ahead of three players in a tie for seventh.
Tianlang Guan, who made headlines in 2013 after he qualified and made the cut at the Masters as a 14-year-old, shot a 72 and is tied for 10th. Also in the hunt for a top-15 finish is female golfer Siyun Liu. A senior at Wake Forest University, Liu is tied for 31st after an opening 75. She would become the first female golfer to have status on the PGA TOUR Series-China if she can remain inside the top 45 this week.
The top-five on the Order of Merit at the end of the 2020 season will earn membership on the 2021 Korn Ferry Tour, the path to the PGA TOUR.
The PGA TOUR established PGA TOUR Series-China in 2014 as its third international tour, following in the footsteps of PGA TOUR Latinoamerica and the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada. Since its inception, PGA TOUR Series-China players have received Official World Golf Ranking points for top finishes at official tournaments.