Haikou, China: Aided by an opening-round hole-in-one, Fu Yekai soared to victory in the 13th Faldo Series China Championship.
Boosted by the first ‘ace’ of his fledgling career, 15-year-old Fu went on to take top spot in the second leg of the 2018-19 Faldo Series Asia season, claiming the notable scalp of Chen Guxin in the process.
Thanks to an accomplished closing three-under-par 69 over the Blackstone Course at Mission Hills Haikou, Fu overhauled overnight leader and tournament favourite Chen.
With a 54-hole total of eight-under 208, Fu finished two strokes clear of second-placed Chen in the R&A World Amateur Golf Ranking event.
Chinese Taipei’s Chang Hsin-chiao emphasised the quality of play by finishing third overall on five-under 211 and retaining her title in the Girls’ Under-16 segment. She was the only player in the field to break par in all three rounds.
As age group winners, Fu and Chang will progress to the 13th Faldo Series Asia Grand Final, to be hosted by Sir Nick Faldo at Vietnam’s Laguna Lăng Cô in March, 2019.
Joining them there will be Chen Jingming, who topped the standings in the Boys’ Under-21 category for the second year in succession, Yuan Zhuohuan (Boys’ Under-18) and Chinese Taipei’s Chou Yi-ting, who maintained her excellent record at Mission Hills by winning the Girls’ Under-21 title.
In April, Chou tied for third in the Annika Invitational at Mission Hills Dongguan and last month she won the girls title and finished second overall behind Chen Guxin in the Jack Nicklaus Junior Championship over the Sandbelt Trails Course at Mission Hills Haikou.
Chen Guxin also has an enviable record at Mission Hills. The schoolboy’s win in last November’s China Amateur Championship came on the Leadbetter Course at Mission Hills Dongguan while his successes in the Hainan Amateur Open (October 2017) and Jack Nicklaus Junior Championship were both recorded on the Sandbelt Trails Course in Haikou.
From the outset of the Faldo Series China Championship, though, Chen found himself on the back foot, an opening even-par 72 leaving him six shots behind Fu, whose 66 was highlighted by a hole-in-one at the 135-yard fifth hole where he struck a sweet nine-iron.
While Fu could only manage a 73 on day two, Chen fought back brilliantly with a seven-under 65, the best round of the tournament, to take the lead heading into the final round.
But his two-stroke advantage was wiped out at the first. Fu then regained top spot with an eagle-three at the long second hole and reached the turn in 34 to hold a two-shot lead that he would not surrender.
Six-time Major championship winner Faldo, Britain’s most successful golfer, said: “I’ve played the Blackstone Course and I know what a good test it is. For four players to break par over 54 holes is an excellent effort that illustrates the ever-improving quality of the top juniors in China and Chinese Taipei.”
The 2018-19 Faldo Series Asia season is supported by The R&A and endorsed by the Asian Tour and the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation. The International Junior Golf Academy is a partner of the Faldo Series.
As well as two events in China, India and Thailand, championships will be staged in Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Chinese-Taipei, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.