Motivated in U.S., Taiwan’s Ching Tzu Chen wins Girls’ Golfweek International Junior Invitational

Ching Tzu Chen wins on U.S. soil again, this time as a student in the country.

(Ron Gaines/Golfweek)

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – There’s nothing like an opening bogey to send Ching Tzu Chen into a sense of calm.

Yes, a bogey. The 18-hole leader at the Golfweek International Junior Invitational opened Sunday at Disney’s Magnolia Golf Course with a bogey-five, quickly moving her back into a tie with Rino Sasaki.

That only prompted Chen to lose any sense of pressure.

“(That bogey) changed my mind from (being the leader) to Rino is the leader and I have to catch her,” Chen said. “It’s easier to play from behind.”

Chen knew what she was talking about. The “chaser” wouldn’t make another score above par the remainder of the round and would tack on three birdies. The final-round 2-under 69 pushed her to 6 under, earning her a three-shot win over Sasaki.

Not too shabby for a player who’s only been in the U.S. a few months.

Chen has had previous success in the states, winning the Girls 13-14 division at the 2015 IMG Junior World Championship in San Diego. But the Taiwanese native only moved from her home country to full-time schooling in the U.S. in August, when she joined the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

Three months later, she’s a winner again in the U.S. It helped that the conditions didn’t make things easy.

In Saturday’s first round, winds picked up significantly on the Magnolia Course in the afternoon, right when the girls were playing.

Just what Chen wanted.

“The first day it was windy … but in my hometown (of Shinju, Taiwan), it’s windy, too, so I think that was good for me,” Chen said.

She would post 4-under 67 to take a one-shot lead in her eventual victory.

Chen, 16, has already played in a few pro tournaments, including the 2015 ISPS Handa New Zealand Women’s Open won by Lydia Ko. But the Class of 2019 prospect hasn’t exactly decided what she will do when her junior days end. She said, at this point, it’s 50/50 whether she plays college golf or takes a shot at LPGA Q-School a couple years in the future.

What she’s unequivocal on is what being in the U.S. can offer her: Namely, access to higher-ranked events. She has her eye on a potential spot for Taiwan in the 2018 Youth Olympic Games, and being in America makes that easier.

“If I play well here, I have more of a chance to get there,” Chen said.

With more performances like the one this weekend, she’s well on her way.

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