HAIYANG, SHANDONG, CHINA—Yechun “Carl” Yuan of China closed with back-to-back birdies to secure a dramatic one-stroke victory at the Qingdao Championship and become the second amateur to win a PGA TOUR Series-China title.
The 21-year-old started the day with a two-shot lead and carded an even-par 72 at Tiger Beach Golf Links to finish 6-under, one ahead of England’s Callum Tarren (69), who recorded his sixth runner-up finish in his last 11 PGA TOUR Series-China events.
China’s Zihao Chen, playing in the sixth-last group, shot 68 to finish 4-under and share third place with England’s Michael Skelton (69) and Canada’s Eugene Wong (70), a Tour winner in 2015 when he finished fifth on the Order of Merit.
Australia’s Max McCardle (74) was sixth on 2-under, one ahead of China’s Yinong Yang (73) and Korea’s Taewoo Kim (71), who finished fourth on the 2016 Order of Merit and played on last year’s Web.com Tour.
Yuan, who played college golf for the University of Washington for three years, was competing in Sunday’s final group for his third successive event on the Tour and was delighted to win after previous closing rounds of 71 left him tied 18th at last month’s Kunming Championship and joint third at last week’s Yantai Championship.
On Sunday, he bogeyed Nos. 3 and 6 and birdied No. 8 to make the turn in 37, then birdied 12 and bogeyed 13 and 15 to fall back to 4-under, one behind Tarren, who played in the third-last group and posted the clubhouse lead.
Yuan then chipped to four feet with his third shot on the par-5 17th and hit a great wedge approach to six feet on the par-4 18th to set up birdies, with Yuan screaming in delight after holing the winning putt.
“I'm so excited to get the win. This is my first win in a long time. I played very stable in the front nine and I knew I had to make two birdies on the last two holes and I made it!” said Yuan, who works with Sean Foley, Justin Rose’s coach.
Yuan was also pleased to become only the second amateur to win on the Tour and follow in the footsteps of longtime China teammate Cheng Jin, who was 16 when he won the Nine Dragons Open in Zhejiang province in November 2014. The pair will represent China in the upcoming Asian Games, which will be held in Indonesia from August 23-26.
“I'm very happy to be the second amateur winner on this Tour and it’s great for my preparation for the Asian Games. I’m still an amateur, but I’ve proved to myself that I can win a pro tournament, so it’s a great feeling,” Yuan said.
Tarren, who led after the second round, birdied Nos. 2, 5 and 8 before closing with 10 pars in a row in a bogey-free round. Despite being runner-up for the third time on the Tour this year, the 27-year-old was happy with his finish in tricky weather and his frustration was eased by earning the winner’s purse of RMB 270,000, which Yuan couldn’t accept as an amateur.
“To go bogey free, 3-under in that wind and conditions is fantastic. I missed a couple of chances on the par-5s coming in, some good chances, but I’m happy with how I finished,” said Callum, who started the week fifth on the Order of Merit.
“I’m disappointed, but fortunately it’s still the winner’s check. That will really help me fly on the Order of Merit and puts me in a great spot to secure Web.com Tour status.”
Chen, 21, made the turn at even-par after two birdies and two bogeys, but racked up birdies on Nos. 12, 14, 17 and 18 to tie for third, his best result on the Tour since September 2016 when he finished runner-up for the third time.
“Today, my overall level of play was very good. I’m happy to achieve this result when there was so much wind. I’m a bit disappointed in my two bogeys, but other than that it was a good day,” said Chen, who’s looking forward to playing a familiar course at next week’s Beijing Championship.
“Topwin Golf and Country Club is very familiar to every Chinese player. I think I'm in good shape now and I hope I can have the chance to compete for a title again next week.”
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.