Circling the globe-Eugene Wong gives a first-person account of his travels between PGA TOUR China and Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada
By Eugene Wong
Special to PGATOUR.COM
My last few weeks have been like something depicted in a movie, when you see a map on the screen with a line going from one dot to another, the dots and line representing the places someone has traveled. Well, over the last six weeks, the line on my map starts in Canada and goes to China. The line eventually makes its way back to Canada before it returns to Southeast Asia, to Thailand. Then it will be back to Canada, to Saskatchewan, for the SIGA Dakota Dunes Open in early July, a jagged line, back and forth, up and down.
That’s the way my life has been since I elected to use my Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada exempt status to play in China, not far from where my father grew up, in Hong Kong. Whether I’ve been on the Ping An Bank China Tour – PGA TOUR China Series or playing on the Mackenzie Tour, I’ve earned a lot of frequent-flier miles, and I’ve been collecting all kinds of stamps in my passport.
I’ve also been playing some pretty good golf.
After beginning my year in Haikou, China, in April, at the season-opening Buick Open, where I tied for eighth at Mission Hills Golf Club, I returned to Canada and worked on my game until I went back to China for a three-week stretch beginning in May. I didn’t play well at The Eternal Courtyard Open in Zhengzhou. But it was after that tournament that I experienced the coolest thing so far this season. Instead of flying to our next tournament in Wuhan, we all took a high-speed train for the two-hour trip. The train was so fast and so smooth and went more than 200 mph. It was better than flying. If we had a train like that in North America, I’d take it in a heartbeat. That mode of transportation was the best travel experience I’ve had.
And in Wuhan, maybe the travel suited me because my game rounded into shape. I opened with a 3-under 69, and except for a third-round, 1-over 73, I might have won. I did shoot a Sunday-best 67 to finish second behind fellow Canadian Justin Shin. It was the first time in Series’ history that Canadians had finished one-two.
A week later, outside of Shanghai, I picked up my third top-10 of the season when I tied for fifth at the Lanhai Open at the Jack Nicklaus-designed Lanhai International Golf Club on Chongming Island. Although the course is about an hour away from Shanghai, I still made it to the city twice. On Wednesday night, I went to dinner with some PGA TOUR China staffers, eating at a restaurant not far from the famous Oriental Pearl Tower. Then following the tournament, I went back to Shanghai on Sunday night with some players for another night on the town.
The courses we have played in China are championship-ready. They’re all in incredible condition, and with the TV towers on the holes and with live TV on the weekend, it really feels like almost a mini PGA TOUR event. I have had cameras following me, and that’s an experience I like. I especially enjoy the big galleries we get in China. Yes, the fans make a little bit of noise, but that’s OK because when I get on the PGA TOUR, I expect thousands of people to be there watching, so it’s something I’m going to have to get used to. There’s going to be noise, so what I’m experiencing in China has actually been good training for what I anticipate will happen later in my career.
I can speak pretty functional Cantonese, but Mandarin has been the language everybody has spoken at the first four China events. I have had a bit of a language problem, and, yes, some stuff gets lost in translation, but I’m looking forward to going back to China not only to play golf but to explore other parts of the country.
After the Lanhai Open and that one night in Shanghai, I flew home to Vancouver, where I spent half a day. I then went straight to Victoria for the Bayview Place Island Savings Open. I had played in the event the last two years, so I knew Uplands Golf Club pretty well. One practice round was enough for me, and I knew what to expect. I actually felt I could have a pretty high finish there, even with all the travel, and that’s exactly what happened.
I opened with a 6-under 65 followed by a 67 in the second round and trailed my friend Albin Choi by three strokes after 36 holes. I’ve known Albin since my junior days in Canada, and we were both members of Canada’s national team. My front nine wasn’t too good, and I had three bad holes Saturday—with three bogeys and six pars. However, I made three birdies in a row (Nos. 10-12) on the back nine, and that definitely helped my cause. Albin was three ahead of me when the final round began, so I did my best and tried to stay as close as I could. But after he made three birdies in a row to start his day, I just couldn’t make up any ground, and I had my second runner-up finish in three starts, tying with Jason Millard and Adam Svensson.
There is no tournament for me to play this week, so after my weekend in Victoria, I traveled to Toronto—another line on my map—for a corporate outing. And now I’m in Koh Samui, Thailand, for the Queen’s Cup, an Asian Tour event which begins next week. All these figurative lines prove I’m criss-crossing the globe and having fun doing it.
I enjoy playing all over the world, and right now I consider myself a member of both Tours.
I’m fifth on the Ping An Bank China Tour – PGA TOUR China Series’ Order of Merit and fourth on the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada Order of Merit. A top-five finish on either Tour’s money list at the end of the season will mean membership on the 2016 Web.com Tour.
Grabbing a spot in the top five is the plan, to finish as high as I can on both Tours and see what happens because the Web.com Tour will lead to where I eventually want to be—the PGA TOUR.
My game has been pretty solid, and I’ve been putting the ball very well. Everything seems to be falling into place, and, obviously, I’m pretty pleased about that. After Thailand, I’ll head back to Canada for several tournaments before I make my way back to China once we resume play there, in August.
That means a lot of golf, more stamps in my passport, more lines on my map.