WEB.COM TOUR INSIDER
Dou making waves as China's rising star
March 15, 2017
By Adam Stanley, PGATOUR.COM
- Zecheng 'Marty' Dou finished third at The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic in January. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
For a guy who weighs about 150 pounds, stands less than 6 feet tall, and is one of the youngest on the Web.com Tour, Zecheng Dou is pretty confident.
Dou (pronounced ‘Doh’) who goes by ‘Marty,’ is one to watch on the Web.com Tour this year.
A three-year veteran of PGA TOUR China, Dou played as an amateur on that circuit in 2014. The next year, he was Rookie of the Year. He fell short of the top 45 at Final Stage of last year’s Qualifying Tournament, failing to secure guaranteed starts, and subsequently returned to China to tighten his game.
It was a decision worth making, as Dou won four times on PGA TOUR China in 2016, becoming the first golfer in that Tour’s history to earn more than seven figures.
He also finished tied for 40th at the WGC-HSBC Champions.
And when asked if he felt like his results in 2016 were surprising, he provided a simple answer – in perfect English, honed during his five-plus years in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and his repeated visits to the United States as he played more and more as a junior.
“To be honest, last year wasn’t really surprising,” he admits. “Two years ago I was an amateur and I was playing that Tour and I had a runner-up finish. I felt like if I worked a little harder, I could win and become the Order of Merit champion.”
Dou was in school at the time, and trying to balance a professional golf schedule while still working on his studies proved to be difficult.
Because he ended up getting into field of the WGC-HSBC Champions event in late 2014, he decided to forgo college in the U.S. and turned professional at the age of 17.
“I was talking to universities in the U.S. and I was thinking of coming (to America) for school until that event. I decided to turn pro a little earlier,” he says. “I decided to turn pro because that tournament, the WGC, you have to play as a professional. There are no amateurs that play WGCs.”Marty Dou won four times on PGA TOUR China in 2016, en route to the Order of Merit title. (Zhong Zhi/Getty Images)
It’s been quite a quick ride to the Web.com Tour for Dou, who started playing golf when he was 6 while in Canada.
Dou explains his father, who was a stockbroker in China, used to play and took him out. He was just holding clubs, he says, unsure if that counts as actually playing. But, he started to find coaches for lessons while living in Vancouver.
“I was still just out there for fun,” he says. “I got back to China and I started half-school, half-golf, from there.”
He decided to turn pro as a teenager because he was playing professional tournaments as a 14- and 15-year-old and finishing well.
“The (field) strength in China isn’t that great, but they were still pro tournaments. I thought if I could work harder, practice harder, I could do something in golf later on in China,” says Dou. “There were players in those tournaments who turned professional later on, and then they finished really high in pro tournaments. (My dad and I) thought, ‘Why couldn’t I do that?’ I just started working harder.”
Dou admits, with a pause, that golf in his home country is struggling. He doesn’t feel, though, that he is carrying a metaphorical torch for a new generation of Chinese golfers. He knows it’s difficult for the younger generation to get into golf because of how expensive it is – approximately $400 green fees, no matter the course – and the reduction in courses themselves (in January, the ruling Communist Party in China decided to close 111 courses), but is an optimist when it comes to the future.
“The good part is that there are still a lot of places that have (junior) academies in China to help the kids out. That’s developing. Even with the China National Team, there is a junior youth team that has started grooming really young kids,” he explains.I thought if I could work harder, practice harder, I could do something in golf later on.
Eugene Wong, a Canadian from Vancouver who held Web.com Tour status in 2014 and won three times on the Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada in 2012 after a decorated career at the University of Oregon, crossed paths with Dou a number of times on PGA TOUR China a year ago.
Wong says Dou has a fearlessness about him that makes him tough to beat.
“He takes driver whenever he can. He’s aggressive. His putting is aggressive too. His game is so good,” states Wong. “He’s so young and he’s just never been to the bad spots before (on the course) which is why he can be so aggressive. It’s working for him, and he should keep doing that. He seems to have a bright future.”
Wong played with Dou during one of the events Dou went on to win last year in China, and says it was an eye-opening experience for the 27-year-old to see Dou, nearly a decade his junior, take on a golf course.
“He was on fire. He holed out a shot, made a long putt. I thought, ‘Get this kid anywhere near the hole and he’s going to make it,’” recalls Wong. “He had a couple struggles, but came back with birdies and birdies. In those first two rounds, I was like, ‘OK, that’s how you need to get it done.’”
Although Dou has made only one cut out of four on the Web.com Tour this year, he has a solo third at The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic at The Abaco Club. And now, he’s looking ahead to a long, and hopefully successful, season.
“It’s a really tough Tour,” he says of the circuit. “Everyone wants to get their card. It’s easy to go forward and backwards, and everyone is really paying attention at every event. We’ve only had four events so far and it’s a long season. I’m just practicing hard, and trying to play my best every week.”
Zecheng Dou wins by 3 at the Yulongwan Yunnan Open