| Clearwater Bay Open Preview
Jason Hak, HK’s No.1 player, bids to become the tournament’s first local winner after Australian Daniel Nisbet prevailed last year.
Jason Hak will certainly return to Hong Kong a more confident figure after winning his first pro title earlier this year. In August, the Hong Kongborn 23-year-old shot a closing-round 65 to secure a 10-stroke victory at the Yunnan Championship in Kunming, ending a frustrating run since turning professional in August 2013 following his freshman year at Georgia Tech.
“I had been in a good position to win a few times, especially last year, but I was my own worst enemy when I was chasing. I’m playing well again and happy to be heading to Hong Kong again and playing at Clearwater Bay. Now, if I’m in a strong position, I’ll know I’ve closed out before, which should help,” said Hak, who is sponsored by The Clearwater Bay Golf & Country Club.
Last year, Australian Daniel Nisbet emerged victorious after a playoff, describing Clearwater Bay as “the most breathtaking course I’ve ever played”.
Hak will again carry Hong Kong’s best hope of a local victory at the Clearwater Bay Open, which this year has an increased purse of RMB1.5 million, up 25% from RMB1.2 million last year. “There was a bit of attention on me last year because I’m from Hong Kong. I fell away a bit after the second round, but I had a good weekend and finished OK,” said Hak, who tied for 20th after a seven-under-par closing round of 63.
19-year-old Jin Cheng has accepted a sponsor invite to compete at the second Clearwater Bay Open and admitted he’s eager to return to the scene of his greatest triumph. Jin shot a firstround 62 on his way to winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur title, which earned him a spot in last year’s Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club, where the-then 18-year-old missed the cut in his major championship debut but enjoyed global exposure.
Jin has plenty of experience of professional tournaments so far, playing regularly on the PGA TOUR China in 2014 and 2015. In April this year, he competed in the PGA TOUR’s RBC Heritage on an invite. In early 2016, he made the cut at both the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters and Maybank Championship Malaysia – both European Tour events – after receiving invitations on the back of his AsiaPacific Amateur win in Hong Kong.
Last year, local stalwart James Stewart competed on an invite from the Hong Kong Professional Golfers’ Association (HKPGA), while the Hong Kong Golf Association (HKGA) awarded an invite to amateur Leon D’Souza, then 18. Fellow teenage amateurs Isaac Lam and Yue Yin-ho extended the Hong Kong presence in the field when they progressed through the Monday qualifying tournament.
This year’s Clearwater Bay Open will again feature a Monday qualifier, which offers the chance for Hong Kong amateurs and pros to join the field, while local players could again compete on sponsor invites in the 120-player line-up.
David Hui, a member of the event’s Organising Committee, said he hoped there would be a stronger local contingent competing in the 72-hole tournament this year.
“We’re delighted that Jason will again be playing in the Clearwater Bay Open. At last year’s event, we announced that The Clearwater Bay Golf & Country Club was sponsoring him. We’re delighted he has since secured his first pro title, but we’re always so happy to support Jason just because of who he is and how he continues to represent Hong Kong,” said Hui, a former President of the HKGA.
“We expect further Hong Kong players to compete through invites and we will obviously be cheering on all local players in the Monday qualifier and hope they can do as well as Isaac and Yin-ho last year. We had three teenage amateurs from Hong Kong in last year’s field, which shows the strength of our young players and our junior programme.”
Since 2003, The Clearwater Bay Golf & Country Club has been committed to its Community Outreach Program, an initiative aimed at strengthening neighbourhood ties, preserving the environment and upholding family values while working with charity partners to organise and raise funds for different sectors of people in the community.
Jin Cheng has accepted a sponsor invite for an emotional return