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    • PGA TOUR China's Baek, Mina Monday qualify for Utah Championship

    • Todd Baek is currently 12th on the PGA TOUR China Series' Order of Merit.Todd Baek is currently 12th on the PGA TOUR China Series' Order of Merit.

    SANDY, Utah—Prior to this week, no PGA TOUR China Series player had ever Monday-qualified into a Web.com Tour event. That distinction ended when not one but two players earned spots in the Utah Championship.

    Todd Baek and Eric Mina were two of the 12 open-qualifiers who made it into event that begins today at Willow Creek Country Club in this Salt Lake City suburb. Baek tied for second at the qualifier, shooting an 8-under 64—a stroke behind medalist Paul Peterson at Glen Eagle Golf Course in Syracuse, Utah. Baek opened birdie-birdie-birdie and eventually finished with nine birdies and only one bogey during his round. Mina was one of nine players to shoot a 65, so the nine had a playoff for the remaining eight spots. Mina made it through as one of the eight, and he is making his Web.com Tour debut. Meanwhile, Baek played in seven Web.com Tour tournaments in 2013, making three cuts and finishing 145th on the money list.

    “After the end of the first half of the PGA TOUR China Series’ season, I took a couple of weeks off and came back home to San Diego,” said Baek, a native of Seoul, South Korea, who lives in San Diego after attending San Diego State. “I didn’t really plan on trying to qualify for this tournament, by my friend asked me, so I thought, Why not?”

    That friend, fellow PGA TOUR China Series’ player Rak Hyun Cho shot a 66 Monday to miss by one shot the playoff that Mina played in. “I’ve been playing well,” Baek added. “I’ve struggled with the putter all year, so I recently went to the belly putter, which helped me.”

    If Baek “struggled” in China, it didn’t show. After qualifying for the Series with a third-place performance at the second Q School, he tied for sixth at the inaugural event, the Mission Hills Haikou Open, he tied for 10th in his next start, at the United Investment Real Estate Wuhan Open, and he added a tie for fifth at the Lanhai Open. Outside Shanghai, he made a season-best ¥43,800. Baek is currently 12th on the Order of Merit with seven tournaments left on the schedule.

    Mina, a graduate of the University of California who still lives in the Bay Area, had a more challenging start to his PGA TOUR China Series’ season. He earned his card by tying for 10th at the first Q School but played in only two tournaments, his one made cut coming at the Mission Hills Haikou Open (tied for 49th). Mina has been battling tendinitis in his foot, an injury that forced him to curtail his play in China. Wednesday, he declared himself healthy and ready for the Utah Championship.

    “This is a good course, a good layout. It’s pretty tight, but if you can keep your ball below the hole, you can make a lot of birdies,” Mina said of Willow Creek Country Club, the 16-year home of the tournament. “I spent last year on OneAsia (Tour), I played in the Volvo China Open, a couple of Japan Golf Tour events and the Australian Open, so I think that experience has allowed me to feel comfortable here. The way the Tour is run in China is very similar to here, so I think China has prepared me well to play in the U.S. That Tour has been a big help in progressing my game.”

    It doesn’t hurt this week that Mina, of Filipino descent, has seen a lot of friendly faces on the range and in the locker room, specifically four former University of California players who are in the Utah field. Besides Mina, the other Bears are Max Homa, winner earlier this year at the BMW Charity Pro-Am, Michael Weaver, Michael Kim and Peter Tomasulo.

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