Veteran James Stewart and teenager Leon D’Souza have been handed invites for the US$1.2 million Clearwater Bay Open to join Hong Kong number one Jason Hak Shun-yat in the 120-man field as the PGA Tour China Series makes its first stop outside of the mainland next month.
Last year 41-year-old Stewart won the Hong Kong Professional Golfers’ Association (HKPGA) order of merit for the fourth time, while 18-year-old D’Souza won the Hong Kong Open Amateur title and both will be making their China Series debut at Clearwater Bay Golf Country Club.
A resident in Hong Kong since he was six, former Asian Tour member Stewart has played in the Hong Kong Open 14 times and also represented Hong Kong in three World Cups.
“It’s great that myself and Leon will both be competing, along with Jason, whom I’ve known since he was a kid,” said Hong Kong Golf Club member Stewart, who is currently leading this year’s HKPGA order of merit.
“I hope we’ll get some strong support and will be among those competing at the weekend.
“I’ve probably averaged eight to 10 rounds a year at Clearwater Bay for the past 15 years and also played there as an amateur before its redesign.
“Following confirmation that I’ll represent the HKPGA, I’ll make sure I play a few more rounds there before the rest of the field arrives!”
D’Souza won the Hong Kong Open Amateur and the Hong Kong Junior Open last year, while he also played in the 2015 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship at Clearwater Bay Golf Country Club and carded round of 71, 71 and 72 during the weather-shortened event.
“I’m so happy to hear that I’ve been given a start in the Clearwater Bay Open. It has been an exciting couple of years for me, but this will be the one of the biggest professional events I have played in and I expect to learn a lot from the PGA Tour China Series pros,” D’Souza said.
“I’d like to thank the HKGA [the Hong Kong Golf Association] for this opportunity and hope I can play well. I have played Clearwater Bay quite a few times and enjoyed playing there in the Asia-Pacific Amateur, so I hope that will help me when I play the pros.”
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Hak had already been handed an invite, but after the 22-year-old finished inside the top 20 at last month’s Ping An Bank Open in Beijing, he earned an automatic place in the field for the November 3-6 event.
He is currently 14th on the China Series order of merit after posting three consecutive top 10 finishes, with the money list winner guaranteed a full card on the PGA Tour’s second-tier circuit, the Web.com Tour, next season.
That position is currently held by Chinese teenager Dou Zecheng, who has won four times this season to lead Ping An Bank Open winner Charlie Saxon by over Ұ500,000 (HK$576,041).
A strong local contingent is also expected to compete in the Monday qualifier for the Clearwater Bay Open, when the top 10 players will earn places in the 120-man field.
“We’re getting more excited each day as we get closer to the Clearwater Bay Open, which is a groundbreaking event for the Ping An Bank China Tour – PGA Tour China Series as the circuit moves outside of mainland China for the first time,” said PGA Tour China managing director Greg Gilligan.
“The Tour remains a pathway for China’s top players to move on to the Web.com Tour – the qualifying gateway to the PGA Tour – and has grown to attract players from all over the world, who are attracted to a strong schedule of over a dozen events that is set to grow in the coming years.”