In his professional debut, Cheng Jin is on track to lock up full membership for the upcoming PGA TOUR Series-China season after a second round, 1-over 71 moved him to 2-under at the Mainland China Qualifying Tournament. Jin will head into the third round five shots ahead of 17-year-old amateur Enqi Liang, who recorded the low round of the day with his even-par 70. Yongxuan Yin is in solo third, at 6-over and three players are tied for fourth.
In December, Jin made the difficult decision to leave the University of Southern California midway through his junior year, and he is now looking to kick start his professional career by earning one of 12 full cards available for the 2019 season. Finishers 13-35, including ties, will earn conditional status through the first six events.
Jin, who played the 2016 Masters after winning the 2015 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, teed off on hole 10 and made the turn at even-par after following a bogey on No. 14 with a birdie on 15. He then picked up birdies on Nos. 3 and 5 but went bogey-par- double bogey on his final three holes.
Despite the disappointing finish, Jin admits he is enjoying the conditions at Foison Golf Club, which will also host the Tour’s next two Global Qualifying Tournaments before it heads to sunny Phuket, Thailand, in March for the third and final Global Qualifying Tournament.
“The conditions are nice especially on the greens. I mean the greens are really, really nice,” said Jin. “I’m enjoying the course a lot, but there are some challenges which make it interesting. It’s not a long course so course management is very important here.”
Jin still remains the youngest player to win on the Tour when he won the 2014 Nine Dragons Open at age 16. Now the 20-year-old is looking to earn the chance to emulate that success as a professional and follow in the footsteps of compatriot Yechun Yuan, who left the University of Washington early and turned pro, parlaying his fall season on the Tour into a Web.com Tour card.
Although it seems virtually assured that Jin will finish in the top 12, he refuses to consider that until the task at hand is complete.
“I’m trying not to think too far ahead,” said Jin. “All I can do is play my game, and we’ll see if I can keep it going and just stay on track. It’s always important to stay in the present and keep improving.”
Liang is also on track to earn a full card and lies in solo second after a steady round of four birdies and four bogeys. The teenager started the day well picking up three birdies and one bogey in his opening five holes before dropping shots on Nos. 12 and 15. He picked up his final birdie on hole 17.