Five players pass MQ to earned coveted spots at ST.Andrews Henan Open
Henan, China June 5: Five players battled through tough conditions to earn their coveted spots at the China Tour’s St. Andrews Henan Open Qualifying round which was held at the St Andrews Golf Club in Henan on Monday.
The top-five finishers of the 34-men Qualifier are Jake Stirling of Australia, Kevin Esteve of Andorra, American Harry Boyd as well as the Chinese duo Pan Xiaoli and Lin Xinyang. They will tee up for the season-opener which gets underway on Thursday.
Stirling traded five birdies against four bogeys to sign for a one-under-par 71, becoming the only player to return with a red number on a rainy day at the RMB1.35million event.
The Australian won by two shots over the other four players, who shared second place after they returned with matching 73s.
“I played pretty good today. I haven’t been practicing much so I feel very lucky today. I played consistently. The aim was to shoot even-par so I wasn’t being too aggressive out there.
“I was just hitting it to the middle of the greens and try to get the ball in in two putts,” said Stirling, who played on the China Tour last season but has yet to find form.
Stirling has been coaching in Zhengzhou since the start of the year after taking over the role from a friend.
With his win at the qualifier, Stirling hopes to take another shot at giving his professional career a boost when the new season on the China Tour gets underway.
“The rain got really heavy but the course is in good condition. The drainage was pretty good. I am looking forward to the tournament which starts proper on Thursday now,” Stirling added.
Esteve, a former professional skier who hails from Andorra, believes he is on track for a career breakthrough after earning a spot in the season-opener.
He participated in the China Tour Qualifying School last month but did not manage to secure full playing rights for the season.
“I think I played pretty well. I just got unlucky on a few holes. The opponents are really strong. I like playing on the China Tour. There are a lot of great courses here. I plan to stay here for the rest of this year and play in the Monday qualifiers if need to,” said Esteve.
The leading top-20 players in every tournament on the China Tour will automatically qualify for the next event on the schedule.
Having already taken the first step in qualifying, Esteve is now hopeful of progressing further.
“I’ve already made it through the qualifier. So the next goal would be to try and make the cut after two rounds. After that, I will try my best to finish top-20 in the last two rounds,” added Esteve.
Li, who is playing in his fourth season on the China Tour, sprung a surprise when he showed up on the Qualifier. He had forgotten to sign up for the tournament before the closing date.
“This is the second time I forgot to sign up,” said the 23-year-old who made sure he did not let the opportunity slip away from his hands by returning with a round of three birdies against a triple-bogey and one bogey.
“I made mistakes on a few holes today. Other than that, I played pretty consistently today. I made the three birdies from short putts. I putted slightly better today. The rain makes the course seems difficult.”
Li represented the Hainan Team in the National Team Championship last month. “I played with Liang Wen-chong and Wu Ashun every day during the tournament. It was pretty good. My team finished fifth and I came in eighth in the individual category. The game’s feeling good. I am hoping for a good result this week. I should do well if I can avoid making mistakes,” Lin added.
Players from 16 different countries have begun to arrive at the St. Andrew (Zhengzhou) Golf Club. They include two-time China Tour champion Zhang Huilin, Liu Yan-wei, who finished tied-11th on the European Tour at the Shenzhen International in April, Asian Tour Qualifying School graduate Ouyang Zheng, as well as American duo Mark Baldwin and Benjamin Krug.
Rain is forecast for this week and players can expect wet and tough conditions. With the conclusion of the qualifiers, the stage is now set for a brand new season on the China Tour.