Wenyi Ding, 17, wins 74th U.S. Junior Amateur, becomes first male from China to win USGA championship

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Wenyi Ding made history on Saturday.

After losing his first two holes during the 74th U.S. Junior Amateur at Bandon Dunes in Oregon, Ding played great en route to his 3-and-2 victory over Caleb Surratt to capture the championship.

Ding is the first male player from China to win any United States Golf Association championship, and he’s the second who made the final of the U.S. Junior Amateur, following Bo Jin in 2019. Ding is also the first international champion since Min Woo Lee in 2016.

With the victory, Ding earned an exemption into the 2023 U.S. Open at Los Angeles Country Club. He and Surratt, who will attend Tennessee in the fall, were both already exempt into next month’s U.S. Amateur.

Ding, 17, is committed to Arizona State and has one year left before his college career begins.

The duo came in as the highest ranked players in the World Amateur Golf Rankings competing in the championship (Surratt at No. 19 and Ding at No. 20), and the final match certainly lived up to the hype.

Surratt started the 36-hole championship match great, winning the first two holes to take an early advantage. Ding fought back, winning the fourth hole with a par and the seventh with a birdie to tie it. Then, he won three straight holes on Nos. 10-12 to go 3 up. Surratt stopped the bleeding with a birdie on the par-4 14th, but Ding responded, winning the 15th hole to go into the lunch break 3 up.

That’s when the rout started. Ding won five of the first 10 holes during the pair’s second 18, and Surratt didn’t win any. Ding’s lead reached 8 up with 8 to play after a great second shot into the par-4 10th settled just a couple feet from the hole, giving him an easy birdie.

Surratt wouldn’t go down without a fight. After taking a drop on the par-4 11th, Ding dropped the hole with his first bogey on the second half of the day. Surratt proceeded to birdie the par-3 12th and par-5 13th hole to make it 5 down with 5 to play.

Ding’s approach shot to the 14th hole nearly hit the flag stick and settled just behind the hole. Surratt one-upped Ding, his approach hitting the flag stick and deflecting off the pin just left of the hole. Ding conceded the putt, and his birdie lipped out, extending the match yet again.

On the par-3 15th hole, Surrat’s shot settled on the green while Ding wasn’t on after three shots, so Ding conceded the hole, making it 3 up with 3 to play.

On the par-4 16th, both players hit their tee shots pin high and left of the flag. Ding’s approach settled close to the hole, and Surratt’s was left. His birdie putt missed, and Ding closed with a par of his own to half the hole and clinch the match.

The only other players from China to win a USGA championship are Alice Jo at the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links and Lei Yi at the 2019 U.S. Girls’ Junior Amateur.

Ding made 11 birdies and one eagle during the championship match. Surratt hadn’t trailed in match play until Saturday.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek