(MENAFN- Gulf Times) Dou Zecheng could scarcely believe it as he became the first Chinese golfer to earn a prized PGA Tour card, saying his rise to the world's richest circuit was 'going to be pretty big.
It completes a historic month for Chinese golf after Li Haotong finished third at the British Open at Royal Birkdale — China's best performance in a men's major. Li's remarkable 63 in his final round saw him mentioned as a future major-winner, but the slight Dou — also known as Marty — stole the limelight on Sunday when the 20-year-old won the Digital Ally Open in Kansas on the Web.com Tour.
He was the first Chinese player to win on the tour, which is the development competition for the PGA, but his three-stroke victory came with an even greater prize. 'I was talking to my team and I didn't know if I needed to keep practising or get more experience on the Web.com Tour instead of trying to get to the PGA Tour so fast, the fresh-faced Dou said. 'I never thought I could win this year.
Dou, who only turned pro in 2014 and has competed in the PGA Tour China in the past few seasons, also banked a cheque of $117,000 with the Kansas win. 'It's a big honour to represent China and come play in the United States, said Dou, who speaks excellent English after spending more than five years in Vancouver, where he took up golf seriously. 'Playing and learning from the best, competing and earning my tour card, it feels amazing right now.
The bespectacled Dou and fellow Chinese Zhang Xinjun have been travelling together this season and trying and earn their tour card. 'It's going to be pretty big, added Dou after the career-changing victory.
'We've been talking to the Chinese media this year about a Chinese player potentially getting to the PGA Tour, how soon will they get their card. And I just did it here. It just happened.
With rain washing out the first day's play on Thursday, the last two rounds were held back-to-back on a marathon Sunday and Dou made his charge early at the Nicklaus Golf Club at Lions Gate.
He flirted with a course record during a third round of 61 before coolly closing out the win with a 66, finishing with a 25-under total of 259, three ahead of second-placed Americans Kyle Thompson, Luke Guthrie and Billy Kennerly.
Born in China's heartland province of Henan but raised in Vancouver for part of his childhood, Dou turned professional at 17, electing to forgo university and return to his homeland to hone his career.
Chinese golf has been hit hard by the ruling Communist Party's crackdown on corruption, with dozens of courses forced to close in recent years.
The PGA Tour China, a circuit that offers promising Chinese golfers like Dou a chance to win a Web.com card, has struggled to get approvals for its tournaments, its managing director told US media in May. China has only a few hundred courses, most with exorbitant green fees well beyond the budget of common people. But a number of the country's young golfers have continued to make steady in-roads on the world's leading tours.
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