Yunnan native Chen Chang-ping continued a recent good run of form by taking the first round lead in the Volvo China Open Kunming Jialize Qualifying event today.

The 33-year-old rolled in six birdies and an eagle-three on the par-five 15th to post an impressive opening round of six under-par 66.

Chen could easily have been one or even two shots better than his 66 but was among the 14 groups called off the golf course when a sudden thunderstorm forced a 90-minute suspension of play.

The perfect greens on the Phil Mickelson-designed golf course slowed down just a little, and many of the players in the restart had to adjust to the slightly slower pace.

“My performance was affected somewhat by the thunderstorm delay and I came back to the golf course and dropped a shot on the par-four fifth hole,” said Chen, who finished in the top 20 in a China PGA Tour event last week.

“It’s very important to have a positive attitude and to remember to remain patient when you are in trouble, so I was able to settle down and complete my round in style once I’d adjusted to the speed of the greens, and I managed to regroup and was able to birdie the next three holes.

“I’ve always been a fan of the Volvo China Open so I’m hoping to win a place in Beijing by qualifying tomorrow,” added Chen.

“I signed up to play in the qualifiers last year but I didn’t get through, however I could really feel the high level of play required to be able to compete in the National Open.”

Shandong province-based Jiang Yong took the early clubhouse lead with a five under-par 67.

“I’ve played the Volvo China Open Qualifying five times before,” said Jiang, 27, who is a headmaster of a golf college in Shandong province.

“Although I’ve not yet qualified for the Volvo China Open I will not give up, and today’s round is a really good start.

“I think there is a great chance for me to qualify because there is not a great amount of difference between the skills of the leading players’, and I think I should be able to maintain my position in the top three if I continue to play well.

“The Volvo Open China Qualifying are a coexistence of challenges and opportunities, so I’m always attracted to play in these events,” added Jiang, who was fortunate to finish his round before the round was suspended.

Piao Jun-yi made the third hole-in-one of his amateur career by acing the par-three eighth hole with a pitching wedge. That impressive feat saw him reach two under-par for the round, and the 23-year-old then added three further birdies on the back nine to finish tied third on 68.

Piao revealed that his relationship with Volvo-sponsored events stretches back several years and that he first walked the fairways as a caddie.

“I caddied for Jin Da-xing in the 2013 Volvo China Open at Binhai Lake Golf Club in Tianjin, and so I saw lots of very good players in action there,” said Piao, who has spent the past year training in the USA.

“From that experience I decided that I wanted to make a career in golf.”

No fewer than 14 players stand at par or better, so tomorrow’s final round is likely to offer plenty of excitement.

(2018-03-27, Kunming)

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