American C.J.Gatto heads 2009 Omega China Tour Qualifying School
Tuesday, 10 February 2009
Ten players secured a full card for the Omega China Tourâ€™s fifth season after a second hot, humid day at Palm Island Resort in Guangdong.
Korean Lee Joung-wook, a former winner on the New Zealand PGA circuit, shot a second successive 71 to finish runner-up, while Singaporean Goh Kun Yang shot four birdies in six holes in a best-of-the-day 69 to finish third on one-under.
Big-hitting David Freeman, an Asian Tour regular, shot a 72 to finish fourth on two-over. Fellow Hong Kong-based Brits James Stewart and Nick Redfern each shot 75 to share fifth on three-over with former European Tour player Max Kellner, who bagged six birdies in his 71.
New Zealander Kelvin Jones, Korean Tour player Eom Jae-woong and Andrew Good, another Hong Kong-based Brit, also secured their cards by finishing eighth, ninth and 10th respectively.
Gatto played another solid round to follow his opening 68 and could even afford a double-bogey at the par-four 17th after chunking his approach into the water from a divot, but was delighted to top the Tourâ€™s second Qualifying School.
â€œIt feels awesome to win. Itâ€™s always nice to have the overnight lead and I stayed in front. Now Iâ€™m looking forward to playing a full season on the Omega China Tour,â€ said the young American, a native of Columbus, Ohio who graduated last May from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV).
â€œI was a little scrappy early on, but my short game kept me in it. I was really solid for the final 12 holes, although I was a little unlucky on 17,â€ added Gatto, who moved to Shenzhen in November to work with David Leadbetterâ€™s eldest son, Andy, at the OCT Pure Lead Golf School.
Redfern and Stewart were the only two Tour regulars from last year to earn a full card again, and the former was happy after feeling a little under the weather.
â€œI was happy to get round today and complete the job because I feel like Iâ€™ve got a virus,â€ said Redfern, whose wife Yvette caddies for him.
â€œMaybe it was the air-conditioning last night, but I feel awful and have been coughing a lot. Iâ€™m looking forward to another good season.â€
Many eyes will be on Kellner this year after the German, a European Tour player in 2000 and 2001, completed his first competitive event in over three years following injuries suffered in a car accident in 2005.
â€œI felt much more confident after yesterday, when I was so nervous on the first tee that my heart was pounding,â€ said the 29-year-old German, who has spent the past week working on his game with Shay Smart, Palm Islandâ€™s Director of Golf.
â€œIf you donâ€™t play for a while, you make stupid mistakes, but Iâ€™ve come on a lot in the last week or so. I now want to compete full-time and will be looking to also play in some tournaments on the Asian Tour.â€
Jones, whoâ€™s based in Beijing, was sweating on the final scores but saw his dream come true when he finished in eighth place after rounds of 72 and 76.
â€œI had the premonition about a week ago that I would finish eighth, which is weird,â€ said the 34-year-old New Zealander. â€œI wish I had the premonition Iâ€™d come first but maybe I will save that for the Tour itself.â€
Hong Kongâ€™s Jovick Lee Wing-kei, who played in the final flight, fell back to a share of 11th after a 79.
The diverse field comprised eight Americans, seven Koreans, six each from UK and Canada, three New Zealanders, two each from South Africa and Australia, and players from Germany, Singapore and Norway.
The Tour has become more competitive since offering places for foreign PGA members living in Greater China last year, which also marked the first full season two players were invited from each of Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong and Macau.
Palm Island Resort has 27 holes and is situated in the Hui Yang District in eastern Guangdong, just 40 minutes from the Hong Kong-Shenzhen border.
Omega China Tour Qualifying School Leading final-round scores (top 10 earn full card):
140 - C.J. Gatto (USA) 68-72
142 - Lee Joung-wook (KOR) 71-71
143 - Goh Kun Yang (SIN) 74-69
146 - David Freeman (UK) 74-72
147 - Nick Redfern (UK) 72-75, James Stewart (HKG) 72-75, Max Kellner
148 - Kelvin Jones (NZL) 72-76
149 - Eom Jae-woong (KOR) 74-75
150 - Andrew Good (UK) 75-75
Other Selected Scores:
151 - Jovick Lee Wing-kei (HKG) 72-79
157 - Jason Robertson (RSA) 78-79
* Supplied courtesy of Omega China Tour