January 21, 2019

Player’s Take: Cheng Jin

This week marks a new beginning of sorts for Beijing native Cheng Jin, a PGA TOUR Series-China veteran who has significant Series playing experience—all coming in 2014 and 2015 when he was an amateur. Jin, who will turn 21 in March, recently announced he was foregoing the last half of his junior year and all of his senior season at the University of Southern California to turn pro. He will make his pro debut this week, at the Mainland China Qualifying Tournament at Foison Golf Club in Guangzhou and anticipates playing a full Series season in 2019. Earlier this week, Jin considered his time at USC and what’s in his future.

I think a major factor in turning pro was how many tournaments I would be able to play. I got full status on Asian Tour through Q-School last December, and hopefully I can play well this week to get some status on the PGA TOUR Series-China.

The decision to leave school was really hard because I couldn’t have asked for a better coach and better teammates. I have a lot of love for them, but my dream is to play professional golf so sometimes that’s life and life can be hard. It was difficult but now I’ve made the decision so there is no looking back. I am definitely grateful for the team I had and for how much my coach has helped me and for my time at USC.

Everyone was very supportive when I announced my decision, and they all sent me great messages. It was emotional, but I will always be a Trojan in my heart. It’s hard to express my feelings through words, and there is a lot going on now but there is still a lot of love between us.

We were a great team for the past two and a half years. My freshman year, we were ranked No. 1 for most of the season, then we won the NCAA Regionals and got into the quarterfinals of the National Championship.

We lost a couple great players to graduation, like Sean Crocker, who is on the European Tour right now, and Rico Hoey, who almost made it onto the PGA TOUR, and we also won a couple of big tournaments last year. But without me I still think the team has a very bright future, and I will always be rooting for them.

It wasn’t easy balancing golf and school work, but I kind of enjoyed it. It makes your schedule really full, and you don’t really have time to think, Oh, what should I do right now? It’s hard to be a student-athlete, especially at a place like USC, where school is not really easy, but I enjoyed it. I think I learned a lot, both with the team and through golf and in the classroom.

I remember there were times where we had to take our tests on the road, and there were also times where we would just get back the night before and the next morning we would have a midterm. So that’s something I can be happy about—no more schoolwork. Goodbye papers!

Carl Yuan earning his Web.com Tour didn’t factor into my decision to turn pro, but I’m really happy for him that he played great golf in such a short period of time. I’m not sure if I’m able to do that. But to give myself the best chance is to play a full season, and hopefully I can try to do what he did. I wish him well on the Web.com Tour.

Obviously, I’m really excited and it’s like my job now. I’m not a student anymore, and I’m just looking forward to playing this Tour and the Asian Tour. Hopefully it’s going to be a very busy year. I also think that as a rookie there is so much for me to learn and experience, and hopefully I will have a good attitude and stay humble and positive.

I won PGA TOUR Series-China Q-School by a big margin last year. This year, you never know. It’s golf. All I can do is play my best and we will see what happens.

As for my schedule this season, my main focus would be on the PGA TOUR Series-China if there are (Asian Tour) events that clash. But if there’s an off-week for PGA TOUR Series-China, then I might play an Asian Tour event, depending on the situation. But no one knows what is going to happen in the next few days, so hopefully I can get some status here and put my main focus on this Tour. But if I don’t, at least I have my Asian Tour card secured now.

I’ve been practicing a lot, and I had a good winter. I got through Asian Tour Qualifying School to get full status over there, and I had a family vacation and I made my decision (to turn pro) so now I’m here. I’m not sure about my game right now, but all I can do is take it one shot at a time and try to play good golf. But to play good golf, I really need to be focused on the present.

Honestly, everyone wants to play well, but I just want to give it my best and leave no disappointments out there. You never know what is going to happen in golf, and I think that’s the really fun part of it, so hopefully I can just grind hard and play my best.

Marty Dou and I were good friends when we were junior golfers, and I’m really happy for him, just like with Carl. In terms of motivation and inspiration I think it’s definitely some kind of motivation because seeing someone at my age doing such great things is something that I look forward to, and hopefully I can do it, as well.

Like I said, I have to take it step by step. I’m a rookie, and he has been a pro for a couple of years. Marty is a great guy and a great player so I knew he was capable of doing these types of things so hopefully he can keep going and do even greater things.

I won a PGA TOUR Series-China event here five years ago, and I think a lot of things have changed both for me and on this Tour. The Tour has been getting stronger, but hopefully I got better, too. We will see what happens. I’m really appreciative to the CGA (China Golf Association) and to the PGA TOUR for giving so many players—not only the Chinese players but players all over the world—such a great opportunity and platform to get onto the biggest stage in golf. The courses are great, the organization is great and the events are very well run, so I love competing on this Tour.