China’s Hao Tong Li Comes to Stonebrae Classic With Eye on PGA Tour
July 8, 2015
China’s Li Haotong is only 19, but he’s already made history as a trailblazer.
Come next week’s Web.com Tour Stonebrae Classic at TPC Stonebrae in Hayward, the Hunan province native will continue his quest to take things even farther.
Thanks to three wins last fall on the PGA Tour of China, Li became the first player from China to hold PGA Tour or Web.com Tour membership.
He hasn’t disappointed.
In the season-opening Panama Claro Championship back in January, Li nearly became the youngest winner in Web.com Tour history, taking a one-stroke lead into the final round before finishing in 11th place.
Entering the Stonebrae Classic, he’ll be the highest ranked Chinese player in the Official World Golf Rankings at No.135. Tiger Woods is currently at No.226.
But those aren’t the important numbers for Li. Heading into next week’s tournament, he’s at No.46 on the Web.com Tour money list. If he can get within the Top 25, he’ll earn PGA Tour playing privileges for the 2016 season.
“When I play in China, if I shoot 3 or 4-under, I feel kind of okay, but on the Web.com Tour, I have to try on every shot,” Li told the New York Times through a translator. “Even if I’m 3 or 4-under, I still have to play every hole like it’s the last hole. That’s the big difference.”
At TPC Stonebrae, Li will take on a demanding links-style course that can play even tougher if the wind kicks up.
“Last year, I do a lot of working on my swing, and this year I am more focused on playing the shot,” Li said. “Right now, a lot of Chinese people are thinking about the mechanics. They’re not thinking about how to play golf.”
Named the 2014 PGA Tour Chinese Series’ Player of the Year three months after turning 19, Li’d make the cut in 11 of 12 starts on that circuit.
At last month’s Rust-Oleum Championship outside Cleveland, he’d finish T-11, his third tie for 11th on the Web.com Tour this season.
Not surprisingly, the lanky Li (he’s 6-foot, 160 pounds) has become a sensation and inspiration for other players from his homeland.
“Everyone is trying to chase him,” said Cao Yi, who’s hoping to earn his Web.com Tour card. “He’s the role model now.”
Featuring a $600,000 purse, the Stonebrae Classic will run Thursday through Sunday. For ticket information, please visit https://www.stonebraeclassic.com/tickets