by Louie Chan / Images: PGA TOUR Series-China / Zhuang Liu
One day after his 26th birthday, Hong Kong’s Motin Yeung fired a final-round 67 to secure a narrow one-stroke victory at the Zhuzhou Classic.
Motin Yeung lifts his trophy after winning the Zhuzhou Classic
In just his second event of the PGA TOUR Series-China season after playing nearly a full season on the Korn Ferry Tour, Motin Yeung claimed his first Tour title since winning the 2018 Kunming Championship. On that Sunday at Xiangshui Bay Golf Club, the leaders’ scores were neck and neck all day before Yeung made his move on the back nine. After making the turn at 1-under, he carded birdies at the 10th and 15th and an eagle (14th) to give himself a one-stroke lead over Canada’s Peter Campbell, who already had completed his round and was in the clubhouse.
Approaching the busy grandstand on the tough closing hole, Yeung, who was born in Beijing, knew he needed to get up and down for par, but was in a bunker just short of the green. His chip-out settled eight feet from the cup, and he lipped in his putt.
“I was so nervous before making the final putt, but nervousness is different from fear and so I actually looked forward to it. That’s the whole reason I chose to be a professional golfer,” says Yeung, who fell to his knees in relief after the putt dropped. “That almost gave me a heart attack! The atmosphere was amazing, and there were lots of fans, so it’s good to feel what it’s like to be in contention again and be signing autographs. I’m just thrilled.”
Yeung finished seventh on the Order of Merit of the PGA TOUR Series-China in 2018 and earned status on the Korn Ferry Tour by tying for seventh at the LECOM Suncoast Classic after the Monday, qualifying into the event. That performance earned him additional starts. He finished the season with 147 points on the points list and lost his status.
Coming into the week, Yeung knew he needed a big performance as he looked to get back onto the path to the PGA Tour. “I don’t have great expectations, and I think that helps.
I always just try to do my best and play well,” notes Yeung. “The goal was to get into the second stage, and I needed to win this week, so of course it feels amazing to actually do it. It feels great to hit my target, and hopefully, there will be more good things to come.”
And it all came together. Yeung celebrated his 26th birthday over the weekend after a one-stroke victory in the Zhuzhou Classic in Hunan Province. The Beijing-born Hongkonger secured his top-25 Order of Merit status and earned direct entry into the second stage of the Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament.
However, turning the clock back to July, Yeung was missing consecutive cuts on the competitive second-tier circuit of the U.S. PGA Tour. “I faced some challenges, especially in July when I wasn’t doing very well,” said Yeung by phone, when visiting his family in China. “I would say the hardest thing was the schedule. From April to August there was a tournament every week, and you can’t really afford to take many weeks off. As I wasn’t playing well, I just wanted to play as many as possible. It was physically challenging and, more importantly, mentally. At one point, I missed seven straight cuts. It was really hard to adjust - how to start over being fresh again every week.”
Yeung made his PGA Tour Series-China breakthrough in 2018, when he won the Kunming Championship on a sponsor’s invite, having failed to make it through Q School. That secured his card on the PGA Tour Series-China and his playing status on the Korn Ferry Tour, but it was a difficult debut season. Out of 16 tournaments, he had just one top-10 finish and missed ten cuts, including seven in a row. His prize money of US$25,408 and rank of 147 was not enough to help him retain his status.
But those negative feelings did not last long. Yeung, who represented Duke University in the United States, knew he was doing what he loved. “I love travelling and playing on the Tour with the competition, but I had no good results to show yet, but I just kept telling myself I had to keep on working and hope something good would happen. Something good did eventually happen in Zhuzhou.”
The victory in Zhuzhou has given him the confidence to return to the Korn Ferry Tour, which is the main route for players to qualify for the PGA Tour. “I think my game has developed a lot - how I prepare for tournaments and maintain the health of my body and mind. I learned how to do those things better; much of it is mental preparation,” explains Yeung. “The competition at Korn Ferry is so intense that even shooting five or six under you may still miss the cut. With that kind of expectation, I push myself to shoot lower scores, and that has changed my performance on the course; I have learned to enjoy the process and to stay in the moment.”
When asked how far he from the PGA Tour dream is, Yeung exudes confidence. “I don’t want to sound too cocky, but I believe I am pretty close to it. I have a good mental game. I want to make it through Q School and secure some status next year on Korn Ferry,” Yeung also wants to thank the HKGA for its support in the development of his golf career. “I have represented Hong Kong multiple times. I played the National Games in 2013 and 2017, the Asian Games in 2014, the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in 2015 and the World Amateur in 2012. They were all great experiences, and I had a lot of fun travelling with my teammates. At the time, Brad Schadewitz was our coach, and I had multiple captains - Rob Keys and a couple of other good guys. I truly had a great time.”