The Forecaddie: Options abound for USC's Cheng Jin after winning Q-School

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The Forecaddie: Options abound for USC's Cheng Jin after winning Q-School


The Forecaddie: Options abound for USC's Cheng Jin after winning Q-School

What does one do after winning a professional tour’s Q-School by 17 shots? Play in a college tournament days later, then go back to Q-School.

Confused? Let The Forecaddie explain.

Cheng Jin had himself quite a time earlier this month in his native country, as he posted a 17-shot victory March 2 at the PGA Tour Series-China Mainland China Qualifying Tournament.

“It was a good week for me,” Jin said.

Good. Or “wow” as one of his USC teammates put it. Another, sophomore Kyle Suppa, noted it was even more than that.

“We started telling him that he’s basically a pro already now,” Suppa joked.

Jin, 20, didn’t seem impressed enough to rest on his laurels.

Three days later, he was in Las Vegas competing for the Trojans at the Southern Highlands Collegiate. The sophomore finished in a tie for 20th on March 7, then had a midterm in a marketing class the following day. Oh, and on March 13, he plans to tee off at Mackenzie Tour Q-School in Santee, Calif. – which offers one of the tour’s five Q-School sites with Carlton Oaks Country Club.

Jin won the PGA Tour Series-China’s Nine Dragons Open in 2014 to become the circuit’s youngest champion. A year later, he captured the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, earning him a Masters invite for 2016. He then won the prestigious Players Amateur that summer, grabbing an exemption into the 2017 RBC Heritage in the process.

Still, with this busy schedule in progress, what exactly does Jin have planned for his future?

“Right now, I have no clue,” Jin said.

Jin will remain an amateur through the end of his sophomore season, and then he has some options.

He could stay amateur through the summer in order to play in some of golf’s biggest amateur events. Or he could play the China circuit, where he’s got a full card thanks to Q-School, while he stays amateur through the summer. There’s also the idea of turning pro once the 2017-18 college season ends, and then heading to China from there. If he gets Mackenzie Tour membership, pro possibilities exist there as well.

Jin hasn’t nixed any of these options after the college season, but he’s come to no conclusion at the moment. It does seem, though, that his sophomore campaign at USC will be his last.

So there’s no time like the present to make noise in college. While Jin has posted six top 25s on the college level, he hasn’t quite displayed the dominance he’s provided at times in amateur and pro events. (He currently ranks a respectable but not remarkable No. 259 in this season’s Golfweek/Sagarin college rankings.)

That’s why his coaches at USC were especially thrilled to see that talent pop up again recently in that 17-shot win.

“We were stoked,” said Chris Zambri, USC’s head coach. “He’s a super talented guy, and I know he’s chomping at the bit to put up that kind of performance (his 17-shot Q-School win) in college. There’s still a lot of time in this season to do it.”

Indeed, if the 16th-ranked Trojans make the NCAA Championship, that’s five more potential events this season.


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