Golf

12-year-old shoots 79 in debut

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TIANJIN, China (AP)

Twelve-year old amateur Ye Wocheng created history by becoming the youngest player ever to compete in a European Tour event, firing a score he'd prefer to forget.

Ye had a 7-over 79 on Thursday in the first round of the Volvo Open, including eight bogeys and one birdie.

He was 11 shots behind the clubhouse leading duo of Raphael Jacquelin of France and Thailand's Kiradech Aphinbarnrat, who were among the early starters and each carded 68s.

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While Ye struggled, his 16-year Chinese compatriot Dou Zecheng carded an impressive 70.

Dou, who contested last year's U.S. Junior Championship, had four birdies and two bogeys to be the leading amateur in the field.

Ye, who set the European Tour mark for youngest player at 12 years, 242 days, is following in the footsteps of Guan Tianlang, who made history last month when he became the youngest to compete in the Masters at 14. He also made the cut at the Masters, despite a one-stroke penalty for slow play in the second round.

Guan competed at the China Open last year when he was 13 years, 177 days.

In the field this week along with Ye is 14-year-old Andy Zhang, the youngest to play in the U.S. Open last year. He's joined by Bai Zheng-kai, 15, last year's winner of the China Junior Matchplay Championship, Dou, and Jim Liu, the youngest winner of the U.S. Junior Amateur in 2010 at 14.

Ye qualified for the China Open with his father on the bag, rallying from a late double bogey to secure the last of four qualifying places.

''Ye's ability to listen and respond is way above the norm,'' said his coach, Englishman David Watson. ''At the moment, I don't believe that Ye has too many rivals of the same age. He often wins in higher age groups, but at the same time, I know it is dangerous to speculate and we must realize he is just a 12-year-old boy.''

Watson was the former amateur coach to Ryder Cup stars Lee Westwood and Justin Rose. He currently works with the Chinese youth golf program.

Tagged: Robert-Jan Derksen

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