HUANGSHAN, China(June 23 , 2019) — China’s Zhengkai Bai fired a final-round, 5-under 67 to secure a two-stroke victory over American David Kocher at the Huangshan Championship, a tournament reduced to 54 holes due to bad weather in the opening two days. It was Bai’s first win as a professional and the first victory by a player from China in 2019.
At Hidden Tiger Golf Club, Bai started the day four shots behind Kocher but managed to turn things around Sunday. After making the turn at even-par, Bai racked up five birdies on the back nine to finish at 12-under. Over his three rounds, Bai was 12-under and bogey-free on the back nine.
”°I thought if I played OK on the front nine, then I could have a chance today. I shot 7-under on the back nine in the first two, so I thought I could have another good run on the back nine again,”± said Bai. ”°I just really enjoy the back nine, and I played it great again. I chipped in on hole 14, which was huge for me and really helped give me the boost to win.”±
Bai played three years at the University of Central Florida in Orlando but decided to forego his senior year to turn pro, which he did last month ahead of the European Tour”Æs Volvo China Open.
Bai is weighing whether to return to school to finish his degree in finance or whether to keep playing as a full-time professional.
”°It”Æs awesome to win for my country. It really means a lot,”± said Bai, who is hoping to follow the footsteps of current Korn Ferry Tour player Xinjun Zhang. ”°I actually just talked to Xinjun last night, and he told me to catch up.”
Bai obviously listened. In addition to getting the victory, Bai moved to ninth on the Order of Merit in only his third PGA TOUR Series-China tournament, and he can now legitimately think about the Korn Ferry Tour, that offers 2020 membership to the top-five money-winners at the end of the season and invitations to the Qualifying Tournament to those inside the top 10.
With PGA TOUR Series-China observing a break in its schedule, Bai will return to the U.S., until action resumes.
”°My plan now is I”Æm going to play a few Korn Ferry Tour Monday qualifiers and play a few more PGA TOUR Series-China events. After that I”Æm not sure. I know I still have to do the schoolwork, but I also want to keep playing.”±
For Kocher, It was a tough pill to swallow. After holding a three-shot lead to start the day, the American failed to get any momentum going. As a consolation, his second-place finish moved him to No. 1 on the Order of Merit, not a bad consolation prize.
”°It”Æs not the round I wanted, but it was still a great tournament. I played great in the first two days but just didn”Æt hit it well today,”± said Kocher. ”°I”Æm still very happy with the way I hung in there, and it feels good to be No. 1 on the Order of Merit. I can”Æt be too disappointed.”±
Did you know that Zhengkai ”°Bobby”± Bai had a decorated amateur career. He reached a career-high ranking of 134th on the World Amateur Golf Ranking and played in the 2018 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championships, where he finished ninth.
- The course this week is a par-72 totaling 7,288 yards.
- Zhengkai Bai started playing golf at age seven.
- Like Yechun Yuan, who is now on the Korn Ferry Tour, Zhengkai Bai has also received coaching from renowned instructor Sean Foley, who currently counts Justin Rose, among others, as one of his pupils.
- David Kocher turned pro in 2018 after graduating from the University of Maryland.
- This was Dinggen Chen”Æs 51st career PGA TOUR Series-China start. Prior to this week, he had never had a top-10 in his career but he ended that streak with his tie for ninth. His previous career-best finishes”Ŗtwo ties for 11th”Ŗcame at both the 2014 and the 2015 Nine Dragons Open.
- Amateur Guxin Chen recovered from a double bogey on hole 3 to card four more birdies for a 70, moving him into third place. The finish was his best on PGA TOUR Series-China.
- Amateur Guxin Chen has made five cuts in his his 12 career PGA TOUR Series-China appearances. Before this week, his top 2019 showing was a tie for 42nd at last week”Æs Suzhou Championship.
- Zhengkai Bai has played in only two previous PGA TOUR Series-China tournaments as a professional. He tied for 57th in his debut, at the Qinhuangdao Championship, and tied for 28th last week at the Suzhou Open. He also made four starts in the inaugural season of 2014, missing the cut in all four tournaments when he was a teenager.
- Zhengkai Bai has played eight consecutive rounds under-par. His streak began with a 2-under 70 in the final round of the Qinhuangdao Championship. He added three more 2-under 70s last week to go with a second-round 71 last week and was sub-par in each of his three rounds this week.
- American Max McGreevy has yet to finish outside the top 20 in a PGA TOUR Series-China tournament. He has finished fourth, tied for second, tied for 19th, tied for third, tied for 12th, finished third and tied for eighth prior to this week”Æs fourth-place performance.
- Four players from China”Ŗwinner Zhengkai Bai, amateur Guxin Chen (third), Bowen Xiao (tied for ninth) and Dinggen Chen (tied for ninth)”Ŗall finished inside the top 10, the most this season.
- In three previous starts this season, Bowen Xiao had missed the cut each time. His last made cut came in September 2018, at the Qinghuangdao Championship. He ended that streak this week when he tied for ninth, only his second career top-10 in 36 career starts.
- Thailand”Æs Gunn Charoenkul continues his solid play this season. After missing the cut in the season-opening Chongqing Championship, Charoenkul has posted five consecutive top-10s, his tie for seventh this week his latest. Eleven of his last 12 rounds have been par or better, this week”Æs second-round 74 his only blemish.
”°In Florida it rains a lot, so I”Æve already gotten used to it. The rain didn”Æt affect me a lot.”± ØC Zhengkai Bai
”°I only saw the scoreboard on hole 18. So when I saw the scoreboard on the final hole I was very happy.”± ØC Zhengkai Bai
”°I tried to stick to my gameplan and hit quality golf shots all around and let them come to me and try to shoot a another under-par round, but it just didn”Æt work out. That”Æs golf.”± ØC David Kocher
”°I was proud of the way I hung in there without my best stuff. It”Æs a tough golf course. It was a great week, and I played very well the last couple of days. It just didn”Æt work out my way on the last day.”± ØC David Kocher
”°I didn”Æt get much momentum, and I was just grinding out there. I thought if I could shoot 3-under on the back nine I could have a pretty good chance of winning, and I ended up only shooting even (-par) on the back.”± ØC David Kocher
Tournament Fast Fact
This is the inaugural Huangshan Championship and second consecutive week the Tour has visited a Gary Player-designed course. Last week”Æs Suzhou Jinji Lake International Golf Club was also designed by the ”°Black Knight.”±
Final-Round Weather Report
Cloudy. High of 82. Wind NE at 10 mph.