PGA TOUR Series-China hits the big 5-0
October 03, 2018
By Staff, PGATOUR.COM
- October 03, 2018
- Let the celebrations begin as PGA TOUR Series-China is set to play its 50th event. (PGA TOUR China)
ZHUHAI, China — A lot has happened on PGA TOUR Series-China since Lianwei Zhang hit the first official tee shot in Tour history, doing so on a cool, damp Thursday morning to open the first round of the 2014 Mission Hills Haikou Open. Just a mere six months after then PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem announced the formation of the Tour in a press conference at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, the upstart Tour was underway—joining its fellow international tours, PGA TOUR Latinoamerica and the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada—under the PGA TOUR umbrella. Zhang, the long-time China professional, earned the honors.
Four days later, South Korean teenager Jeunghun Wang walked away from Haikou with a big smile on his face, winning that inaugural event by 10 strokes—a margin-of-victory record that still stands today.
Wang has since gone on to make a name for himself on the European Tour, earning that Tour’s Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year Award after winning two 2016 tournaments. China’s Zecheng Dou and Xinjun Zhang moved from the PGA TOUR Series-China to the Web.com Tour to the PGA TOUR, while China’s Haotong Li shot a final-round 63 at the 2017 Open Championship. When golf returned as a sport to the 2016 Summer Olympics, both Li and Wang represented their countries at the Games in Brazil.
Already the possessor of an impressive resume, PGA TOUR Series-China is now ready to embark on a significant milestone of its own. This week’s Zhuhai Championship at The Orient Golf Club will be the 50th tournament in the Tour’s history. A lot has happened in those first 49 tournaments, with 31 different players representing nine countries taking home trophies. And now the Series is set to play No. 50.
Exactly 233 weeks will have passed since that opening tee shot in Haikou back in 2014. Memories are abundant as players have competed throughout China, while also playing tournaments in Hong Kong and Macau. With this milestone on the horizon, several players—past and present-shared their thoughts as PGA TOUR Series-China hits the big 5-0.
Gunn Charoenkul, Thailand
Back Then: Charoenkul won tournaments in 2014 and 2016 and has played parts of four seasons on PGA TOUR Series-China, 20 total appearances.
Today: Charoenkul is playing primarily on the Japan Golf Tour, where he is currently 62nd on the Order of Merit. He has also played three 2018 PGA TOUR Series-China tournaments and has also made an Asian Tour appearance.
Charoenkul Said: The best memory for me would be at the Yulongwan Yunnan Open in 2014 when I won there in my first year on the Tour. I shot the lowest score in my life, a 61 in the first round and then I finished at 25-under, at the time the lowest 72-hole score in Tour history. I won the tournament, and I also had my first hole-in-one on the 14th hole during a practice round. It was quite a week.
Haotong Li, China
Back Then: Li played one full season on PGA TOUR Series-China, winning three times in 2014 and earning Player of the Year honors before moving to the Web.com Tour.
Today: Li is in his third year playing on the European Tour, a two-time winner on that circut. He is coming off a season where he played in all four World Golf Championships tournaments and all four majors. He is currently the 58th-ranked player in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Li Said: The greatest PGA TOUR China memory I have was when I first held the trophy in Henan when I won the Jianye Tianzhu Henan Open. I knew when I had four holes left, I was eight shots ahead, but at that time I had never won a tournament before. So, I was still so worried about making big numbers because the next few holes were quite a challenge, especially off the tee. But I was able to avoid problems, and I won by those eight shots. Winning for the first time was a great memory, three years after turning pro.
Charlie Saxon, United States
Back Then: In his first PGA TOUR Series-China season, in 2016, Saxon won twice and finished second on the Order of Merit, qualifying for the 2017 Web.com Tour.
Today: After undergoing hip surgery prior to the start of the 2017 season, Saxon has played his way back into shape, winning five times in 2017 and 2018, including once on PGA TOUR Latinoamerica and twice on PGA TOUR Series-China, where he is atop the 2018 Order of Merit with two tournaments to play.
Saxon Said: Honestly, one of the favorite memories from 2016 happened in Zhuhai. We had a photo call that was amazing. Marty Dou, Taewoo Kim and I went to this bridge not far from the course, the bridge part of a major highway that hadn’t opened yet—that humongous suspension bridge part of the highway. The photographers had us hitting balls on the bridge, and we were hitting as hard as we could. I just remember our drives were bouncing as far as we could see. We even had a couple balls that hit the metal railings and came flying back at us, and we were dodging them. Sure, the four wins I’ve had over here are great memories. And maybe it doesn’t sound that cool, but that day on the bridge was fun since I had never had a chance to hit a driver as hard as I could in an urban area. It was a unique experience that I would probably not be able to do anywhere else but in China.
Todd Baek, South Korea
Back Then: In 2014, Baek was in the first class of players to move from PGA TOUR Series-China to the Web.com Tour when he finished fifth on the Order of Merit.
Today: After spending two full seasons on the Web.com Tour, in 2015 and 2016, Baek has bounced between the Web.com Tour, the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada and also PGA TOUR Series-China, where he won the Haikou Open earlier this season.
Baek Said: A really fond memory is earlier this year, when I won in Haikou. Twenty of us went out and celebrated, with a lot of good food and drink. We had a really good time. I’ve really enjoyed the day-to-day and week-to-week fun of traveling through China with my friends. It’s good to be with them, with all of us playing here. I grew up with Sejun Yoon and Jeffrey Kang, and Ryann Ree went to San Diego State like I did. It’s just nice to have buddies to do things with.
Ray Beaufils, Australia
Back Then: In that first PGA TOUR Series-China season, Beaufils had a pair of runner-up finishes and four top-fives. Even with all that success, he missed two tournaments with injury and ultimately finished seventh on the Order of Merit. He played 31 total tournaments between 2014-16.
Today: Beaufils has split his time for the last three years between the PGA Tour of Australia and the Web.com Tour.
Beaufils Said: Even though I was a lot older than Haotong Li, who was still a teenager back in 2014, I befriended him and brought him into our group of Australians. He was keen to learn English, and hanging around us was a way for him to do that. One day, I taught him that Aussies give nicknames to everyone, with us adding a vowel on the end of the name. So, Daniel Nisbet was “Nizzy,” James Gibellini was “Gibbo,” etc. I thought about his first and last name, and since Haotong is kind of long and Li is really short, I just added an A to the second syllable of his first name and “Tonga” was born. If he was going to be “Tonga,” though, he said I had to be “Raya,” and to him I’ve been “Raya” ever since. Just spending time with a world-class talent very young in his career and having so much fun together is one of my great memories from my time on PGA TOUR China.
Callum Tarren, England
Back Then: In his rookie year as both a professional and on PGA TOUR Series-China, Tarren hit his stride at the end of the 2016 season, with three consecutive top-10s, including a pair of runner-up finishes to conclude his year. Tarren has five second-place showings in his 25 career starts, not including his second-place performance at the Series-sponsored but unofficial 2017 Clearwater Bay Open in Hong Kong.
Today: The England native is second on the Order of Merit with two tournaments remaining and poised to head to the Web.com Tour for 2018. He leads the circuit with seven top-10s in 12 starts, and his 222 birdies are the most of any player this season.
Tarren Said: Off the course, it was our visit to the Great Wall. We went as a group when we were at Topwin (Golf Club) for the tournament in 2016. It was Charlie Saxon, his parents, Michael Skelton, Jack Person, Mark Baldwin and me. We managed to get up on the gondola and walked probably two or three kilometers on the wall. Then we took toboggans all the way down. That was pretty fun. On the course is our yearly visits to Clearwater Bay in Hong Kong for the event. I just love that place. Back in 2016, I shot a final-round, 8-under 63 and set the course record. Then last year, losing down the stretch to James (Marchesani). I’ve played well at an unbelievable place. Getting an event in Hong Kong is just fantastic. I think it’s my favorite golf course in the world.