DONGGUAN, China—China’s Cheng Jin arrives at this week’s Dongguan in high spirits after earning his highest finish of the year at last week’s Guangzhou Open. Although the event was reduced to just 36-holes due to bad weather, Jin finished tied for third and is looking to keep the ball rolling this week at Mission Hills Dongguan – the largest golfing resort in the world.
The former top Chinese amateur is playing his first year as a professional and has had a solid rookie season. After winning the Mainland Qualifying School by an impressive seven strokes to earn full playing status for the 2019 season, Jin now lies 26th on the Order of Merit through nine events. He is roughly RMB 200,000 away from compatriot Zhengkai Bai, who lies in ninth but a good week this week could propel Jin inside the top 10.
“Last week gave me a lot of confidence. I’ve been telling myself to keep confident and just try to keep the momentum going and see what happens. It’s a brand new week so could get a similar result to last week. That would be great, said Jin. “This is just my first year as a pro and I feel like my game has been improving in a good direction. Finishing tied for third last week is a great sign and I hope I can finish even higher at the Dongguan Open.”
The top-25 players on the Order of Merit at the end of this year will earn entry into the Second Stage of the Korn Ferry Qualifying Tournament, while the top 10 finishers earn entry into Final Stage of the Korn Ferry Qualifying Tournament, where a top 50 finish guarantees starts on the 2020 Korn Ferry Tour.
In 2018, fellow compatriot Yechun Yuan finished inside the top 25 on the Series Order of Merit and qualified his way into earning guaranteed starts on the Korn Ferry Tour, and is currently ranked 62nd on the Points List, within striking distance of earning a PGA TOUR card.
Now in his first year as a professional, Jin is hoping to give himself the same opportunity.
“I think it’s been a great season so far. Obviously there are five tournaments left so I’m going to give it my best to finish as high as possible on the Order of Merit,” said Jin. “I’m not going to try and force anything but just keep working hard and stay patient and stay humble and give it everything I’ve got this week.”
As a junior, Jin was one of China’s top amateurs, and became the youngest player to win on the PGA TOUR Series-China, when he won the 2014 Nine Dragons Open at age 16 – a record he still holds. Then in 2015, Jin won the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship to earn entry into following year’s Masters Tournament and The Open. Depite a decorated amateur career, Cheng decided he wanted to continue with his education while still pursuing his dream to play professional golf so he enrolled at the University of Southern California—home to one of the country’s top golfing programs—but decided to quit after his junior year to play professional golf.