Playing in his first tournament since turning pro almost two weeks ago, former amateur star Cheng Jin shot a 3-under 67 to take a five-shot lead after his opening round at the PGA TOUR Series-China Mainland China Qualifying Tournament.
All eyes are on the young 20-year-old this week after he made an emotional decision to leave the University of Southern California in December after two and a half years to pursue his dream of playing professional golf.
Jin lived up to the high expectations by leading the 100-player field at Foison Golf Club, where he carded five birdies and two bogeys while looking to secure one of 12 full cards available this week. Finishers 13-35 including ties will earn conditional status through the first six events.
A native of Beijing, Jin admits he has been working hard in the off-season and is pleased to have an early lead as he looks to come back and compete on his “home tour” – a Tour where he has already recorded six top-10s and a victory as a teenager.
“I’ve been practicing a lot in the off-season and I had a very good winter,” said Jin. “I’m happy with my round today and hopefully I can keep it going for the rest of the week.”
On a narrow course, Jin managed to get off to a good start carding three birdies in a row from No. 3 before adding another on hole 10. Starting on hole 14, he then went bogey, birdie, bogey before finishing with two pars.
Now Jin is looking to extend his lead and admits he is inspired by compatriots Zecheng Dou and Xinjun Zhang, who both graduated from the PGA TOUR Series-China and played on the 2017-18 PGA TOUR.
“Of course seeing Dou and Zhang playing on the PGA TOUR motivates me,” said Jin. “They are both great players and to be able to play on the biggest stage in golf, is definitely something that everyone wants to achieve. So that definitely acts as motivation for me.”
After Cheng, the next-closest pursuers are Chenyou Nan, and amateur Fengru Yin at two-over and five players are three-over. There are seven amateurs in the top-10.