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Li finishes 5th after fine week

By China Daily | China Daily | Updated: 2013-03-04 07:52

Chinese teenager Li Haotong rounded off the best week of his short professional career with a 69 to post a 14-under total of 274 and finish joint-fifth at the NZ$600,000 ($495,000) PGA Championship in Queenstown.

New Zealand No 1 Michael Hendry (67) lifted the trophy for a second year after beating Australian Scott Strange (66) in a playoff, both players finished 19-under.

Li, 17, made headlines with his career-low 65 on Friday and a 66 on Saturday that put him in contention going into the final round of his New Zealand debut.

Li finishes 5th after fine week

The Beijing-born national team player started on Sunday with birdies on one and three, and, after suffering a bogey at five, he bounced back with birdies at six and nine. A bogey at 12 was followed by a fourth birdie at 14.

"This week has given me confidence and is a really good start for the season," said Li (pictured), who finished 18th in his previous PGA Tour of Australasia event, January's Lexus of Blackburn Heritage Classic in Melbourne.

"When I shot 65, I was very excited, as I'd never hit seven-under before. It's my best score in tournaments or practice rounds. My best round before was 67, five under."

Li has been a star in the making since winning the Volvo China Junior Championship in 2010, four years after picking up the game. He has competed in OneAsia tournaments since 2011, when the then 15-year-old became the youngest player to make the cut on the regional circuit, finishing 25th in the Nanshan China Masters.

Now, the tall teenager says he needs to develop physically and mentally to take the next step in what looks set to be a promising career.

"I need to become stronger, as I'm too slim right now, just 66kg. I need to improve my mental game also, and try to be more mature and calm. I'll play on OneAsia again this year and try for the Japan Tour again," said Li, who reached the final stage of Japan Tour qualifying school last year.

Li, who turns 18 in August, also draws inspiration from 14-year-old compatriot Guan Tianlang, who will compete in the US Masters tournament next month after winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship last November.

(China Daily 03/04/2013 page23)

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