• European Tour

12-year-old qualifies for China Open

ESPN staff
May 1, 2013
Guan Tianlang's reign as the youngest player in European Tour history lasted just a year © AP

Twelve-year-old Ye Wo-cheng will become the youngest player in European Tour history when he tees it up at the China Open on Thursday, beating Guan Tianlang's record by almost a year.

China's Ye will be 12 years and 242 days old when he starts the tournament at Binhai Lake Golf Club - nearly a full year younger than compatriot Guan was when he played in the same event 12 months ago.

Ye claimed a spot in the field at the Western China qualifier, fighting back from a late double-bogey to seal his record-breaking place in nail-biting fashion.

"I'm very happy to be the youngest player on the European Tour, and also a little nervous at the same time," Ye said. "But I'm looking forward to the tournament, and hopefully I can play well.

"My main aim this week is just to go out there and enjoy it; I don't really want to think too much about the result.

"It's very helpful that I have my coach here this week, he's taught me a lot about how to play in the wind. This course is very long, and it will play even longer in the wind, but it gives me confidence to know that he is here to give me tips and advice on how to cope in the conditions. I'm excited about getting started tomorrow."

Ye would love to follow in Guan's footsteps over the next few years - the 14-year-old recently made the cut at the Masters and Zurich Classic - but hopes to surpass his standard at this week's event. Playing last year, Guan missed the weekend after rounds of 77 and 79.

"Hopefully I can make the cut this week - that is my goal," Ye added. "I've played many practice rounds on the course, and it's very difficult.

"Some holes against the wind will be very tough to make par on, but all I can do is try my best."

Fifteen-year-old Bai Zheng-kai and 16-year-old Dou Ze-cheng have both also made the field this week. Defending champion Branden Grace admitted that he was in awe of the ability of some of the youngsters coming through in the sport.

"It's amazing," Grace said. "I only started playing the game at 11, so I wouldn't like to think what handicap I was playing off when I was 12!

"I spoke to his coach yesterday, and he told me he's been winning almost every amateur tournament he's played in this year. So I'll be looking out for his results here this week, as I'm sure will most other people. It's a great story, great for him and for the game of golf in general."

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