【Players】Veteran Huang Ready for Big Sunday at Nine Dragons
By Laury Livsey
JIAXING, China—Wenyi Huang has never won an official Ping An Bank China Tour – PGA TOUR China Series’ tournament. But he did win the Mainland Qualifying Tournament earlier this season, which gave him 2015 membership. Then there was his play at the European Tour’s Shenzhen International earlier this year. So he knows a thing or two about being in the mix late in a final round.
As Huang enters Sunday heavily in contention at the Nine Dragons Open, the 10th event in the Series’ 12-tournament season, the 34-year-old veteran from Jiangxi, appears ready and poised to take the next step in his unlikely career. Huang is midway through his third round at the weather-delayed Nine Dragons Open. He trails leader and playing partner James Gibellini by a shot with eight holes of this third round to play Sunday. Immediately following third-round action, players will complete their final 18 holes—weather permitting.
Thirteen years ago, Huang was a cement worker in Guangzhou. It was there he learned the game as a caddie at Chung Shan Hot Spring Golf Club. His game escalated quickly after that, and since turning pro in 2011 at age 30, he’s played on the European Tour, the Asian Tour, the Japan Golf Tour and the OneAsia Tour. He’s in his second season on PGA TOUR China. Huang says he will draw on all he’s learned about his game this season as he seeks his first professional victory.
In March, Huang was completely dominant in the Mainland Qualifying Tournament for players from China. He easily earned his card, coasting to medalist honors in the tournament—a seven-shot triumph over Yan Sun at Liuzhou’s Guangxi Wolong Lake Golf Club. The spotlight really shined on Huang two months later when he took full advantage of his exemption into the European Tour’s Shenzhen International at Genzon Golf Club. Huang opened with a 6-under 66 to take the first-round lead by a stroke over Felipe Aguilar, Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Peter Uihlein. When it appeared Huang would drift away following a second-round 74 that left him tied for 11th at the halfway point, he shot weekend rounds of 70-68 to secure a tie for fourth with six others, earning € 74,410, two strokes out of the Aphibarnrat-Haotong Li playoff that Aphibarnrat won.
“I am satisfied with my playing overall this year,” said Huang, currently 32nd on this season’s Order of Merit after only playing in one event on the PGA TOUR China Series in 2014. “Of course I feel happy when I play well, but I won’t put too much sadness on my face when I don’t. Because we live on golf, earn a living at it, I do feel some pressure. But it doesn’t work if you get mad at your bad performance.”
Since 2007, every night before he goes to sleep, Huang takes time to write in a diary, detailing what he did with golf that day. He uses that history to document the steps and development he has made in his career.
Saturday, he could write about the eagle he made at No. 12 during his third round, a six-footer he calmly rolled in after hitting the green in two. He could also focus on the birdie he made five holes later that temporarily pushed him into a tie with Gibellini. He also had to sleep on—and presumably write about—the three-putt bogey he made on his final hole of the day, the 11th hole when darkness was descending on Nine Dragons Golf Club.
Huang spent the entire round playing with fellow Chinese national team member Zihao Chen, a player he knows well. Huang is the captain of the team. Because of the weather, officials won’t regroup players by score. So Huang, Gibellini and Chen will all play together Sunday.
“I am very happy to see these young Chinese players play better and better, like Zihao and Haotong Li,” Huang added. “I feel very proud of Haotong when I watched him move into a tie for second going into the final round of the HSBC Champions last week. He has shown that Chinese players can play among such strong fields around the world.”
Huang has drawn a lot of interest with his play this week at the Nine Dragons Open, his calm demeanor on the course showing through. He may not be an up-and-coming player, but maybe by the end of the day, some of the younger Chinese national team players will be the ones who are speaking glowingly of their captain.