Date: February 07, 2018
Author: Mark Hayes

Aussies find a home in China

Four more Australian youngsters have earnt a card to pursue their professional dream.

Red-hot Lucas Herbert spearheaded the quartet that included fellow Victorians DJ Loypur and Andrew Schonewille and Sydney’s Kevin Yuan who will have to play on the PGA Tour China this year after stellar Q-school performances this week.

Sadly, Oklahoma-based Novacastrian Corey Hale was on the wrong side of a playoff that sealed the top 15 berths and full status, but the 30-year-old still earnt conditional status that guarantees plenty of starts in China this year.

Herbert, 22, rose to a career-high No.226 in the world rankings after his recent T8 finish in the Singapore Open in which he also earnt a start to The Open at Carnoustie later this year.

The Bendigo ace was second in the NSW Open, played two rounds in the final pairing with Jason Day at the Australian Open before finishing T6 and was T7 at the Australian PGA Championship in three consecutive weeks late in 2017 as he starts to fulfil his immense potential.

Herbert fired out of the blocks with birdies at Nos. 1, 2, 4, 5, 7 and 8 en route to a front-nine 31 during the final round at the Sandbelt Trails Course at Mission Hills.

From there, he cruised to a closing 67 to finish second, just a shot behind leading qualifier, American Jeffrey Kang.

“I felt really good out there. It was good to get off to a really hot start and take advantage of that front nine downwind, and it was pretty ‘cruisy’ on the back, wasn’t too much stress, so it was a nice day,” Herbert said.

Yuan also opened his final round with a spectacular 31 and his eventual 66 was good enough to outright third, just one adrift of his countryman.

Loypur, of Melbourne, coasted home with a 73 to finish T7 to book his berth, but there was no such buffer for Schonewille, whose nightmare quadruple-bogey eight on the 10th hole threw him into a sudden-death shootout in a tie for 15th alongside Hale and Singapore’s Josh Shou.

Under lights on a brisk winter’s evening, Schonewille canned a 3m putt on the first hole to keep his chances alive and then watched as Shou missed a shorter birdie putt.

Shou then drowned his drive on the next playoff hole and was effectively out of contention, the same fate Schonewille thought had befallen him when his second to the par-five 18th also found water.

But another 8m par bomb kept the Peninsula-Kingswood member alive as Hale two-putted for par after his shot at victory from 6m.

“We were asked if we wanted to come back and continue in daylight, but Corey had a plane to catch and we didn’t want it to end that way,” Schonewille said.

“So we went back to the first and it was pretty hard under the lights, but I managed to hit a wedge to two feet from 58m with my third and made the birdie that time around … and that was it.

“It was a great feeling because after I missed my card on the Australian (PGA) Tour at Q-school, I didn’t have a place to play.

“The next thing for me was China, so I put a lot of pressure on myself because I didn’t have a job, so it was really good to play that well under pressure.”

A schedule is yet to be finalised for this year’s PGA Tour China, back after a year’s absence to sit alongside the CGA Tour. But the top five of the PGA version will get a ticket to the Web.Com Tour for 2019 – the aim of most qualifiers, including Schonewille.

“I’ve seen Bryden (Macpherson) have success in China and I’ve played with him a bit at Peninsula Kingswood, so I think my game should stack up OK there,” said the man known to most as `Schonaz’, member of multiple Victorian teams but never on a national squad.

“It’s just a great thing that there are different pathways and options open to us if we play well.

“I understand why not everyone can be in national programs, but it really helps your confidence when you see players like Curtis (Luck) and Lucas doing their own thing that there are different ways to get there.

“This is a really good opportunity for me now and I can’t wait to get started into some four-round tournaments.”