A Lowdown on Sampson Zheng’s Record Breaking 65

A Lowdown on Sampson Zheng’s Record Breaking 65

October 29, 2023
Sampson Zheng with the Amateur Course Record at Royal Melbourne | #AAC2023

Sampson-Yunhe Zheng was the toast of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship on Saturday.

In extremely difficult playing conditions, he shot a course-record 65 to take a four-shot lead going into the final round.

Here are some things you need to know about Zheng… 

Who is Sampson-Yunhe Zheng?

Known as just Sampson to his friends, 22-year-old Zheng is from China. However, he was born in Nagoya, Japan, and moved to Florida in the United States when he was 11 years old to pursue golf. He is currently ranked 48th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) and is a senior at the University of California, Berkeley. 

What did he do at the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship on Saturday? 

Zheng shot an incredible six-under par 65, a new course record for the Composite course at Royal Melbourne Golf Club on a tough day for scoring. He is now leading the Championship at three under par and the only player in red number with a three-under total.

What’s special about the course record?

The previous course record of 65 was held by Sir Michael Bonallack, one of the top amateurs of his time and a leading golf administrator who passed away last month. Bonallack shot his 65 in the 1968 Eisenhower Trophy, and it was later matched on Thursday by New Zealand’s Kazuma Kobori.

Interesting nugget about Sampson:

He broke the course record of Sir Michael Bonallack, and just two months ago in August, he was part of the winning Asia-Pacific team in the Bonallack Trophy against Team Europe. Also, his last tournament, in which he finished tied 20th, was the Dr. Alister MacKenzie Trophy in the second week of October. Dr. MacKenzie is the man who designed the Royal Melbourne course.

His achievements in the past:

Zheng became the second Chinese player to win a USGA-organised championship when he teamed up with fellow UC Berkley teammate Aaron Du to win the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball at the Kiawah Island Club. They beat Drew Kittleson and Drew Stoltz 2&1 in the final.

How good was that 65?

With the wind switching direction and coming from the north-northwest, and the greens firming as they dried up, scoring was difficult at Royal Melbourne on Saturday. In fact, of all the players in the top 10, only Zheng had a sub-par round. The next best was a 71 by Australia’s Max Charles. Other players in the top 10 averaged 3.4 strokes over par for the round.

The numbers that mattered:

Zheng made six birdies and an eagle in his round. He dropped two shots. Despite playing in tricky winds, he managed to hit 13 greens in regulation, and needed just 25 putts to complete the round. He also used the putter five times during the round from off the green.

Zheng’s best hole of the day:

Was not even a birdie. It was the par-he made on the ninth hole. It helped him keep the momentum.

Zheng explains: “I think that was better than the birdies I made. The first putt from the hollow in the front of the green was about 18 or 20 yards, but I just needed to get it barely onto the green and let it trickle down. But it rolled to what was a much tougher spot where I had to kind of graze the bunker with my putt. It magically went in. It was the shot of the day for me.”

How did he make the eagle?

Hole No. 10, par 5: Hit a great driver and the second was from 195 yards. Hit a seven-iron to about 10 feet and made that putt. 

How did the birdies come?

Hole No. 3, par-3: He knocked down an eight-iron to 12 feet and made what was a very fast downhill putt.

Hole No. 4, par-4: Was in the front of the green on the driveable par-4 and putted from around 18 yards to about a foot.

Hole No. 6, par-4: Hit a stunning five-iron shot from 195 into the wind, landed just short and rolled up to about four feet. It was a slider and broke quite a bit, but he was able to convert. 

Hole No. 8, par-4: Hit a pitching wedge to six feet was made a very fast downhill putt. Barely touched the ball. 

Hole No. 12, par-4: Hit a seven-iron to about six feet.

Hole No. 13, par-4: Hit it long with the driver and was just off the green. Chipped it to about six or seven feet.