DONGGUAN, China—China’s Cheng Jin arrives at this week’s Dongguan Open in high spirits after earning his highest finish of the year, at last week’s Guangzhou Open. Although bad weather reduced the event to 36 holes, Jin tied for third and is looking to keep the ball rolling this week at Mission Hills Golf Club, the largest golf resort in the world.
A former top Chinese amateur, Jin is playing in his first year as a professional and has had a solid rookie season after withdrawing from the University of Southern California in December 2018. After winning the Mainland Qualifying School by an impressive seven strokes to earn full playing status for the 2019 season, Jin now lies 26th on the Order of Merit through nine events. He is roughly RMB 200,000 away from compatriot Zhengkai Bai, who is in ninth. A win this week could propel Jin inside the top 10.
“Last week gave me a lot of confidence. I’ve been telling myself to keep confident and just try to keep the momentum going and see what happens. It’s a brand new week, so I could get a similar result to last week. That would be great,” said Jin. “This is just my first year as a pro, and I feel like my game has been improving in a good direction. Finishing tied for third last week is a great sign, and I hope I can do well, if not better at the Dongguan Open.”
The top-25 players on the Order of Merit at the end of the season will earn entry into the second stage of the Korn Ferry Qualifying Tournament, an event that helps determine 2020 membership. The top-10 finishers go right to the final stage of the Korn Ferry Qualifying Tournament, earning 2020 membership. A top-45 finish guarantees starts next year.
In 2018, fellow compatriot Yechun Yuan finished inside the top 25 on the Series Order of Merit and followed that path, taking advantage of those ensured starts. Yuan is currently ranked 62nd on the Korn Ferry Tour Points List, within striking distance of earning a PGA TOUR card.
Now in his first year as a professional, Jin is hoping to give himself the same opportunity.
“I think it’s been a great season so far. Obviously there are five tournaments left, so I’m going to give it my best to finish as high as possible on the Order of Merit,” he said. “I’m not going to try and force anything but just keep working hard and stay patient and stay humble and give it everything I’ve got this week.”
As a junior, Jin was one of China’s top amateurs. He was the youngest player to win on the PGA TOUR Series-China, when he won the 2014 Nine Dragons Open, at age 16—a record he still holds. Then in 2015, Jin won the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship to earn entry into following year’s Masters Tournament and The Open Championship. Despite a decorated amateur career, Jin decided he wanted to continue his education while still pursuing his dream to play professional golf. He enrolled at USC—home to one of the country’s top golf programs. After two-and-a-half seasons, he felt he was ready to pursue professional golf.