Play-Off joy for Zong at Faldo Series Kunming Championship
Kunming (January 5): Zong Zenghaoqi staged a dramatic final-round fightback to celebrate the New Year with an unlikely victory in the 10th edition of the Faldo Series Kunming Championship.
Six shots off the pace after an erratic opening 79 at the award-winning Lakeview Golf Club, Zong looked like he’d have to settle for a minor placing in the 20th and penultimate leg of the record-breaking 2016-17 Faldo Series Asia season.
However, thanks to three birdies, the strapping 21-year-old signed for a second-day two-over-par 74 at the parkland-style Faldo Design layout, located just 15 minutes from downtown Kunming and less than half-an-hour from Kunming’s international airport.
That gave him a 36-hole total of 153 and a share of top spot overall with Wang Siyu, who made what proved to be a costly bogey-six on the final hole en route to a 77.
First-round leader Yang Ruyao was also left to rue a dropped shot on the par-five 18th that meant he suffered the anguish of missing out by one stroke on joining Zong and Wang in a sudden-death play-off.
With tension mounting, Zong and Wang returned to the first hole for extra time. The contest was settled at the first time of asking when Zong held his nerve to secure a par-four, while Wang could only manage a five.
Zong will now have a chance to line up alongside many of the region’s outstanding young players in the 11th Faldo Series Asia Grand Final, to be hosted by Sir Nick Faldo at Laguna Lăng Cô in Danang, Central Vietnam, in March.
Also heading to Vietnam for The R&A World Amateur Golf Ranking event will be Yang (Boys’ Under-21 champion), Wang (Girls’ Under-21 champion), Pu Xi (Boys’ Under-16 champion) and Chai Yuxi (Girls’ Under-16 champion). It was the second year in succession that Pu and Chai won their respective categories.
A unique feature of the Faldo Series Kunming Championship is the staging of a mixed under-12 category. With two rounds in the 90s, Fan Peiqi topped the standings.
Six-time Major championship winner Faldo, Britain’s most successful golfer, said: “It’s an encouraging sign for the future of elite amateur golf in Kunming and China that there’s a demand for young players to experience a competitive environment.
“It’s my hope that within a couple of years we’ll be seeing some of those under-12s qualifying for the Faldo Series Asia Grand Final.”
Supported by The R&A and endorsed by the Asian Tour and the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation, the 2016-17 Faldo Series Asia campaign stretches over 11 months.
As well as two events in China, India and Thailand, championships are being staged in Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Chinese-Taipei, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.
Recognised as the only global amateur series for boys and girls, the Faldo Series was established in 1996, expanding to Asia in 2006.
Today, 40 Faldo Series tournaments take place in 30-plus countries worldwide, touching more than 7,000 golfers each year. Past winners include Tseng Ya-ni and Rory McIlroy, both multiple Major winners.
Faldo Series Kunming Championship, leading final scores:
153 – Zong Zenghaoqi (79-74)
154 - Yang Ruyao (73-81)
156 - Chao Haoran (75-81)
158 - Liu Peilin (81-77)
159 – Ma Shouneng (83-76)
161 – Pu Xi (83-78)
165 - Ruan Zhehua (82-83)
179 – Li Zhengxin (87-92)
153 – Wang Siyu (76-77)
168 – Ni Feiyang (87-81)
162 – Chai Yuxi (85-77)
175 – Hu Jiyu (89-86)
180 – Li Jialin (92-88)
189 – Fan Peiqi (93-96)
227 – Cai Linyi (116-111)