CHONGQING, CHINA—England’s Callum Tarren enters the RMB 1.5 million Chongqing Championship at Poly Golf Club hoping to go one better than his joint runner-up finish at last week’s season opener in Chengdu, having also finished second in his three previous PGA TOUR Series-China events.
In November 2016, Tarren finished second to USA’s Charlie Saxon in the Zhuhai Hengqin Phoenix Tree Open then joint runner-up behind China’s Huilin Zhang in the season-ending Buick Open in Guangzhou to secure eighth place on the money list.
In Hong Kong last November, the Englishman finished one shot behind Australia’s James Marchesani at the Clearwater Bay Open, the lone event sanctioned by the Tour in 2017.
Later that month, Tarren won his first pro title at an event in Jiangsu province, but as the PGA TOUR Series-China resumed with last week’s Chengdu Championship after a year’s hiatus, he found himself in familiar territory, clapping the champion at the prizegiving ceremony as he looked on from his runner-up seat.
“It’s good to finish runner-up, but obviously I’d love to win on the PGA TOUR Series-China. Last year, I was thinking about it more until I won my first title, but I think that if I keep putting myself in these positions on this Tour, a trophy will come and hopefully this year,” Tarren said in in Chongqing as he competes in China’s “Mountain City” for a third time.
“I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing, because I’m doing the right things and the scores are proving that,” he added. “Winning is difficult, we all know that, and hopefully it will come.”
Last Sunday, Tarren played with eventual champion Jeffrey Kang and China’s Jin Daxing in the penultimate group in Chengdu, and was impressed by the quality of golf on display.
“It was a great day and I really enjoyed playing with Jeffrey and Jin. The standard of golf was pretty high. Jeffrey came out the blocks flying, so did Jin. Jin eagled the first, Jeffrey birdied the first, I birdied the second, so we were all under-par early on,” said Tarren, who is attached to Rockliffe Hall in Durham.
“Jeffrey just kept his foot on the pedal all day. He was flawless, really, and through nine holes I think he was leading me by three. I birdied seven and then from 10 he went birdie, par, birdie, birdie and I just couldn’t really catch up.”
No Englishman has won a PGA TOUR Series-China event and Tarren is in good company this week as his three compatriots in the field also finished in the top 10 in Chengdu. Like Tarren, William Harrold also tied for second, while Stephen Lewton and James Maw – Tarren’s good friend and fellow Rockliffe Hall ambassador – both tied for 10th.
“There are so many new faces now and it’s becoming more popular probably as a world tour,” Tarren said. “There are a few more English, a lot more guys from the US, and a lot of new players who can only make the Tour stronger.”
Jin, 25, is among those leading the Chinese charge after tying for fifth in Chengdu, where he secured his place in the penultimate group after a sensational third-round 65. It was his best result on PGA TOUR Series-China, bettering his seventh-place finish at the Lanhai Open in 2016, the year he also recorded ties for ninth, 11th and 12th.
“I played well in Chengdu because my condition was good and my mental game was good,” said Jin, who speaks Chinese and also Korean due to his upbringing in Jilin province, which borders North Korea.
Jin moved to Haikou when he was 15, turned pro in 2011 and won two pro titles in China in 2014. After a difficult 2015, he believes he has been steadily improving year by year.
“I feel more confident after last week’s result, but I won’t push for a high finish this week. I’ll just focus on my game and course strategy,” Jin said. “I’ve been getting better over the last couple of years, especially after 2015 when I was really struggling.”
Yanwei “William” Liu, who also holds status on the Asian Tour, is another player seeking his first PGA TOUR Series-China win.
The 20-year-old Chinese put himself in a good position last week when a third-round 66 secured him a place in the final group with England’s Maw and Shunyat “Jason” Hak, but a closing 72 was only good enough for a tie for 10th.
“The three of us didn’t play well in the final round, especially on the front nine, but it was still a good week. I’m just going to keep going,” Liu said.
“I hope I can play well again this week. The course here is a bit mountainous and more difficult than last week. Driving is very important and if your swing isn’t good, you could lose your ball.”
Every tournament on this year’s PGA TOUR Series-China offers RMB 1.5 million, a 25-percent increase over purse levels from 2016.
The PGA TOUR established PGA TOUR Series-China in 2014 as its third international developmental 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.
PGA TOUR Series-China 2018: First eight of 14 events
March 15-18: Chengdu Championship, Luxehills International Country Club, Chengdu, Sichuan
March 22-25: Chongqing Championship, Poly Golf Club, Chongqing
May 3-6: Changsha Championship, Hunan Dragon Lake International Golf Club, Changsha, Hunan
May 10-13: Haikou Championship, Sunac Haikou 3KM Golf, Haikou, Hainan
June 7-10: Guilin Championship, Guilin Landscape Golf Club, Guilin, Guangxi
June 14-17: Kunming Championship, Kunming Yulongwan Golf Club, Kunming, Yunnan
July 12-15: Yantai Championship, Yantai Nanshan Mashanzhai Golf Club, Yantai, Shandong
July 19-22: Qingdao Championship, Tiger Beach Golf Links, Qingdao, Shandong