NEW YORK • Dou Zecheng became the first golfer from China to secure a US Tour card when he won the Digital Ally Open on the Web.com Tour.
The 20-year-old's impressive rise continued with Sunday's victory, the first for a Chinese on the developmental circuit that in 2013 replaced the Q-school as the route to the top-tier Tour. He had bagged four titles in the PGA Tour China Series last year to top the order of merit and earn his Web.com card.
"I hope (my win) will bring more young players from China to come out and play golf... and give them more confidence when they come out here and play," the bespectacled Dou said. "I never thought I could win this year but it just happened."
With rain washing out the first day's play on Thursday, the last two rounds were held back-to-back on a marathon Sunday, and Dou made his charge early at the Nicklaus Golf Club at Lions Gate in Kansas.
He flirted with a course record during a third round of 10-under 61 before coolly closing it out with a 66, finishing on a 259 total, three ahead of Americans Kyle Thompson, Luke Guthrie and Billy Kennerly.
Dou said he changed his putter last week, and that was the key to his success. "I think my putting was No. 1 for the week," he said.
Born in the heartland province of Henan but raised in Vancouver for part of his childhood, he turned professional at 17, electing to forgo university and return to his homeland to hone his career.
Chinese golf has been hit hard by the ruling Communist Party's crackdown on corruption, with dozens of courses forced to close in recent years. The PGA Tour China, which offers promising golfers a chance to win a Web.com card, has struggled to get approvals for its tournaments, its managing director said in May.
China has only a few hundred courses, most with exorbitant green fees well beyond the budget of common people. But a number of their young golfers have been making inroads on the world's leading tours.
Li Haotong, a 21-year-old from southern Hunan province, won acclaim at The Open Championship last month when he closed with a 63 at Royal Birkdale to finish third, the best result by a Chinese at the men's Major.