Henan native becomes PGA Tour’s first-ever Chinese mainland player
Marty Dou Zecheng on Sunday became the first Chinese mainland player to win on the Web.com Tour and, more significantly, the first to earn a PGA Tour card.
In a 36-hole final-day marathon at Nicklaus Golf Club at Overland Park, Kansas, the 20-year-old from Henan province carded 61-66 for a 25-under total of 259, good for a three-stroke victory at the Digital Ally Open.
“I was talking to my team and I didn’t know if I needed to keep practising or get more experience on the Web.com Tour instead of trying to get to the PGA Tour so fast,” said Dou, an IMG client. “I never thought I could win this year.”
Before his victory, the former PGA Tour China Order of Merit winner had one top10 finish and was No 53 on the money list. Now Dou is headed to the promised land of the PGA Tour after earning a firstplace prize of $117,000.
“It’s a big honor to represent China and come play in the United States,” he said. “Playing and learning from the best, competing and earning my Tour card, it feels amazing right now.”
Dou’s game has evolved since turning pro in 2014. Dou competed on PGA Tour China the past two seasons. In 2016, he recorded four wins on his way to winning the Order of Merit, including a victory at the Henan Open in front of friends and family.
“That was everything,” said Dou about his time on PGA Tour China. “As an amateur I was playing on PGA Tour China in a couple of events. Just trying to grow my confidence and work on my skills while learning.
“Then, the second year, when I turned pro, I finished fourth on the money list and came to Q School and didn’t play well enough to make it.
“And the third year I played in China and won. It was a big breakthrough for me. I am now more prepared than I was.”
Dou and fellow countryman Zhang Xinjun have been traveling together this season and competing every week to try and earn their Tour card. While Dou was still a little shell-shocked after his maiden Web.com Tour win, he understood the importance of this triumph and what it meant for his country.
“It’s going to be pretty big,” said Dou about the victory. “We’ve been talking to the Chinese media this year about a Chinese player potentially getting to the PGA Tour and how soon will they get their card, and I just did it here. It just happened!”
Dou’s charge came in the third round where he recorded a 10-under score to take the 54-hole lead. He attacked the Jack Nicklaus-designed course with precision iron play, hitting 14 of 18 greens and making 23 putts.
“The 61 beat my record by two shots,” said Dou, who bested his lowest score on Tour by four strokes. “It was amazing. I did everything perfect. I don’t know what to say. I feel like my game is in pretty good shape.”
Entering the final round, Dou felt the pressure of trying to earn his first title. He parred the first five holes and then settled in with a birdie at six, a hole he played in 3-under for the week. Dou added birdies at holes seven, 10, 14 and 15 to take control of the tournament.
“I was pretty nervous the first five holes,” he said. “I couldn’t get my iron shots in the right direction and was left with some long putts. Then after my first two birdies, all the way to the end I wasn’t nervous anymore. I just felt like if I played my best I could win this.
“I started thinking during the round if I win, what could I get,” he continued. “I still want to do better than this. I want to carry this into the rest of the season.”
With Li Haotong’s thirdplace finish at the British Open, and Dou and Zhang currently inside the top 25 on the money list, China now boasts a crop of rising stars ready to represent their country on golf ’s grandest stage.
Founded in 1990, and owned and operated by the PGA Tour, the Web.com Tour identifies those players who are ready to compete and win on golf’s biggest stage.
In 2013, the Web.com Tour became the path to the PGA Tour, with all 50 available cards coming through the Web.com Tour and the season culminating at the four-event Web.com Tour Finals.
Dou Zecheng holds the winner’s trophy after his historic victory at the Digital Ally Open in Kansas on Sunday. The 20-year-old became the first Chinese mainland player to win on the Web.com Tour and the first to earn a PGA Tour card.