HONG KONG, CHINA—China No. 3 Yechun “Carl” Yuan, who learned golf by “trying to smack a ball into two pieces”, is determined to crown his first visit to Hong Kong with a victory at the season-ending RMB 2 million Clearwater Bay Open as he bids to secure a place in the top-10 of the 2018 PGA TOUR Series-China Order of Merit.
The big-hitting Yuan won July’s Qingdao Championship to become only the second amateur champion on the Tour, then started his pro career with a runner-up finish at the Suzhou Open last month, having joined the play-for-pay ranks on August 28 after helping China win a team silver at the Asian Games.
The Dalian-based 21-year-old has since followed up with ties for eighth, third and 24th on the Tour to lie 23rd on the Order of Merit, so is going all-out for the RMB 360,000 winner’s check at The Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club.
“With five events left, my goal was to finish in the top-25 in the Order of Merit and I achieved that after two events,” said Yuan, who’s seeking to finish in the top-10 of the money list to secure a place in the Final Stage of the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament.
“As my goal has since changed to getting in the top-10, I’ll probably need a win this week – and I’m confident. My game is in great shape, I like the course and I have a good supporting team with me this week, so I think I have a shot at doing it.”
Yuan, who played college golf for three years at the University of Washington, is a fan of Clearwater Bay’s scenic par-70 seaside layout and said he’s comfortable with windy coastal courses having grown up in Dalian, underlined by his victory at Tiger Beach Golf Links in Qingdao in July.
“It’s fun to play here. It’s my first time being in Hong Kong and it’s such a pretty place. The course is right on the coast and I love playing on the water, so close to the ocean. The course is in awesome shape, so I’m really excited to play this week,” said Yuan, who averages over 300 yards of carry with his driver.
“When I started playing in my hometown in Dalian, it was too cold in the winter to play outdoors, so I’d practice indoors hitting it into a net. I had a good habit of hitting it hard and tried to smack a ball into two pieces, and that was all I knew. I think it was good as a kid to learn how to hit a ball as hard as you can, and then you can learn later how to hit it straight.”
Callum Tarren, second on the Order of Merit, is virtually assured of a Web.com Tour place in 2019, yet is still seeking his first victory on a Tour where he has finished second six times – three times this season – earning him the unwanted title of ‘Runner-up King’.
Tarren, who turned 28 last week, was runner-up to James Marchesani at last year’s Clearwater Bay Open, finishing a stroke adrift after the Australian birdied the last hole, and is keen to become the first Englishman to win on the PGA TOUR Series-China, especially as he’s the only player who can overhaul Order of Merit leader Charlie Saxon.
“Last year, I just missed out on the last hole to James, so that was a bit disappointing, but I just have to keep getting myself in that position and hopefully I can go one better this year,” said Tarren, whose good friend James Maw, an eight-year touring pro, is now his caddie.
“I’m just going to go out and try to win the golf tournament and we’ll add up the money at the end of the week and see where we are. I know if I were to win, Charlie would have to have a good finish, so I’m just concentrating on my game. I know Charlie is just as hungry to win his fifth title on this Tour.”
Marchesani, 27, admitted he was delighted to be back at the scene of his first pro title after arriving in Hong Kong from Scotland, where he played in last week’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St. Andrews’s Old Course, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns.
The Australian’s victory at last year’s Clearwater Bay Open secured him a full card on this year’s PGA TOUR Series-China, where he has been playing much of his golf this season along with the PGA Tour of Australasia and selected European Tour and Asian Tour events.
“It was special last year, being my first win, and sort of set up the end of last year and this year as well, so I’m excited to be back here as a defending champion. It’s a special place and I enjoy coming back,” said Marchesani, who practiced at Clearwater Bay last month.
“We were here a few weeks ago and just being able to re-live the memories of last year was pretty cool. By the end of the year, I’ll have played more than twice as many tournaments as I played last year, so it has been a fun, challenging season with lots of travel to lots of different countries, which has been cool.”
The top-five on the PGA TOUR Series-China Order of Merit will automatically earn status on next year’s Web.com Tour, the top-10 will be eligible for the Final Stage of the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament from December 6-9 and players 11-25 will be exempt to the Second Qualifying Stage.
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.