November 6, 2006 – Teenaged amateur Jimmy Ko will be teeing it up with some of the biggest names in golf after securing a spot in next week’s US$2 million UBS Hong Kong Open.
Ko confirmed his status as one of Hong Kong’s brightest young talents by finishing third in the Open’s first ever qualifying tournament, held at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling on Monday.
The 18-year-old shot an even-par 71 on the Old Course to finish behind Hong Kong pros Derek Fung, who had a 68, and Wong Woon Man, who shot a 70.
“I’m very happy with my score,” said Ko. “I played a solid round, made some good putts and pulled off a couple of saves from the bunker. I was thinking before that I’d do well to shoot three over, so to finish level par is great.”
It will be Ko’s third trip to the Open after he previously gained entry as a member of the Hong Kong national team.
A total of 31 local players – comprising 18 members of the Hong Kong Professional Golfers Association and 13 amateurs exempted by the HKGA – were competing for five starting slots in the UBS Hong Kong Open.
Joining Fung, Wong and Ko as successful qualifiers were pros Chris Tang (72) and Lokky Lee (74).
The latter birdied the par-four first hole to win a playoff against Ducky Tang and amateur Eric Saxvik.
But there was heartbreak for 13-year-old amateur sensation Steven Lam, who finished on 75 after missing a birdie putt at the last that would have got him into the playoff.
The 48th UBS Hong Kong Open will be held on the Championship Course at Fanling on November 16-19.
The five qualifiers will face a stellar line-up that includes defending champion Colin Montgomerie, Major winners Retief Goosen and Michael Campbell, four-time PGA Tour winner KJ Choi, Asian Tour UBS Order of Merit leader Jeev Milkha Singh and Chinese No.1 Liang Wenchong.
Monday’s qualifying event was run in conjunction with the Hong Kong leg of the Faldo Series Asia – also sponsored by UBS – meaning some of the young amateurs taking part had their scores counting towards both tournaments.
The Faldo competition involved 15 Hong Kong amateurs aged under 21 competing for four slots in the Faldo Series Asia grand final at Mission Hills Golf Club in Shenzhen, China, in February next year.
Ko’s 71 saw him qualify comfortably together with Lionel Chan (73) – who was not involved in the UBS Hong Kong Open qualifier – and Lam and Martin Liu. The latter two came through a three-way playoff with Jason Ho after all three finished on 75.