Hue, Vietnam (March 20): Chinese-Taipei’s Chen Ting-yu raced out of the starting blocks to raise the prospects of an historic triumph at the 13th Faldo Series Asia Grand Final.
Less than four months after announcing his arrival on the international stage with victory in the Faldo Series Europe Grand Final, the 17-year-old left-hander set a blistering pace with an opening-round six-under-par 65 in steamy conditions at the award-winning, Sir Nick Faldo-designed Laguna Golf Lăng Cô layout in Central Vietnam.
Displaying a magical short game, Chen chipped-in twice and holed five birdie putts to soar to the top of the leaderboard in The R&A World Amateur Golf Ranking event that features 72 talented juniors from 19 countries, including winners from the 22nd Faldo Series Europe Grand Final and the second Faldo Series United States Grand Final.
“I just went out there to enjoy myself,” said Chen, who won the Boys’ Under-16 category here last year. As well as seeking to become the first male from his country to claim overall honours in the Asia Grand Final, he also has his sights firmly set on writing his name into the record books as the first player to hold the Europe and Asia Grand Final titles simultaneously.
“It was a good day with my wedges,” said Chen, whose mature course management was highlighted perfectly at the par-five 18th where he laid-up to 82 yards and struck a pinpoint 58-degree wedge to within three feet of the front left pin.
With the same club he holed out for an eagle-three at the long third from 35 yards left of the flag and at the par-four seventh for a birdie after air-mailing the green.
He also set-up short birdie putts at the first and 16th after precise approaches with his 52-degree wedge. For good measure, he snared a downhill double-breaking putt from 20 feet for another birdie at 10.
“The course is in good condition and the greens are much quicker than they were last year,” added Chen, whose only blemishes were bogeys at the second where he three-putted and the short eighth where he pulled his tee-shot into sand and was unable to get up-and-down.
Heading into the second round in the 54-hole stroke play event, Chen holds a three-stroke lead in the overall standings from compatriot Chang Hsin-chiao, who covered the front nine in five-under 30 but came home in two-over 38.
A further shot back in joint third are Indian Keshav Mishra and Japan’s Miyuu Abe, who finished strongly with birdies on 17 and 18.
Mishra (Boys’ Under-21) and Abe (Girls’ Under-21) lead their respective age group categories. Sharing top spot in the Boys’ Under-16 segment are Miguel Armando Ilas of the Philippines and Pakistan’s Damil Ahmed Ataullah on 73 while Chang has a one-shot advantage from Singapore’s Yoko Tai in the Girls’ Under-16s.
Being staged at Laguna Golf Lăng Cô for the third year in succession, players attended a Rules Seminar presented by Dominic Wall, The R&A Director – Asia, on Tuesday evening and were treated to a golfing clinic by six-time Major champion and tournament host Faldo following the first round. A special clinic was also held for local school children.
The 2018-19 Faldo Series Asia season is supported by The R&A and endorsed by the Asian Tour and the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation. The International Junior Golf Academy is a partner of the Faldo Series.
As well as two events in China and Thailand, championships have been staged in Australia, Bangladesh, Chinese-Taipei, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Korea, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam over the past 12 months.
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 champions include Tseng Ya-ni and Rory McIlroy, both multiple Major winners, while Thidapa Suwannapura (2010 Faldo Series Asia Grand Final Girls’ champion) and Nasa Hataoka (2016 Faldo Series Asia Grand Final Girls’ champion) both won on last year’s LPGA Tour.
13th Faldo Series Asia Grand Final, Leading First Round Scores
Boys’ Under-21: 69 – Keshav Mishra (India). 70 – Yuta Kamiya (Japan); Sukra Bahadur Rai (Nepal). Boys’ Under-18: 65 – Chen Ting-yu (Chinese Taipei). 70 – Kotaro Murata (Japan); Nguyen Hung Dung (Vietnam). 71 – Petr Hruby (Czech Republic); Aryan Roopa Anand (India).
Boys’ Under-16: 73 – Miguel Armando Ilas (Philippines); Damil Ahmed Ataullah (Pakistan). 74 – Tanakrit Rattanadilok Na Phuke (Thailand); Weerawish Narkprachar (Thailand).
Girls’ Under-21: 69 – Miyuu Abe (Japan). 71 – Maria Sofia Chabon (Philippines); Chou Yi-ting (Chinese Taipei); Chen Ling-jie (Chinese Taipei). Girls’ Under-16: 68 – Chang Hsin-chiao (Chinese Taipei). 69 – Yoko Tai (Singapore). 71 – Kan Bunabodee (Thailand).