AN INTERNATIONAL CAST OF GOLFING GREATS AND CELEBRITIES IS HEADING TO HAINAN ISLAND FOR THE MISSION HILLS WORLD CELEBRITY PRO-AM TOURNAMENT
Excitement is building as China prepares to stage the sports and entertainment spectacular of the year at the Mission Hills Haikou golf complex in Hainan Island.
A galaxy of Hollywood superstars, sporting legends and golfing greats is set to attend the Mission Hills World Celebrity Pro-am tournament, which will be broadcast around the world.
The guest list for the eagerly awaited week of golf, glamour and gala events include Oscar winners Nicole Kidman and Morgan Freeman, Hollywood stars Chris Evans and Jessica Alba, and bestselling recording artist Kenny G.
The jazz saxophonist, who has sold more than 75 million records, is a fanatical golfer who once got his handicap down to plus-0.6 and played a Nationwide Tour event on a sponsor’s exemption.
“Aside from music, golf is my other passion and so I’m thrilled to be invited to China to take part in the Mission Hills World
Celebrity Pro-am,” he said. “It will be an honour to play alongside some of the true legends of the game and I anticipate a memorable tournament.”
China’s basketball legend and former US National Basketball Association star Yao Ming will take part in the tournament for the second time. One of China’s most influential sporting figures, the retired athlete’s return to Mission Hills is expected to further raise the profile of golf in mainland China.
At a press conference hosted by Mission Hills Haikou’s sister golfing complex in Dongguan, Guangdong, Yao had a few shots at a hoop set up next to the 18th green.
“My goal for this year is to improve my golf skills to reach a new level,” he says. “I have less than two months to practice but I will work hard and try my best.”
Yao said he hoped to have the chance to play with Morgan Freeman when the starstudded event gets under way. “I know Morgan Freeman plays golf very well and he is my idol. It would be fantastic to be paired with him,” he says.
Chinese music icon Jay Chou, who has sold an estimated 30 million albums in the course of his career, and martial arts movie star Donnie Yen have been named official ambassadors for the World Celebrity Pro-am and will perform key roles in the opening ceremony.
Other sporting icons heading to the tournament include two Olympic legends – Russian ice skater Evgeni Plushenko and Chinese gymnast Li Ning.
“The aim of the Mission Hills World Celebrity ProAm is to bring together all the superstars and famous personalities to promote and popularise the game of golf here in China,” says Mission Hills Group chairman and CEO Dr Ken Chu.
“This event positions China on the world map of golf and showcases Mission Hills and the country as a whole as a must-visit destination for travellers, whether they are golfers or not.”
Top golfers taking part include two of the greats playing in this year’s Ryder Cup, the flamboyant Ian Poulter and 2013 US Open champion Justin Rose, as well as their Team Europe captain Paul Mcginley.
They will be joined by nine-times Major champion Gary Player, multiple Major winners Greg Norman and John Daly, former Open Championship winner Darren Clarke, ex-masters champion Ian Woosnam, and Rich Beem, who was victorious in the PGA Championship.
Women’s world no. 4 Suzann Pettersen is the latest big-name golfer to join the line-up. The Norwegian golfing ace says she relishes the prospect of returning to a resort where she has enjoyed success in the past.
“I have fantastic memories of Mission Hills Haikou after winning the 2013 World Ladies Championship there and then finishing runner-up this year,” she said.
“The resort is incredible and the Blackstone Course, where we will be playing the World Celebrity Pro-am, is one of the best I have experienced in my career.
“I’m looking forward to mixing with the movie and sports celebrities as well as some of the greats of men’s golf. While the atmosphere will be relaxed and fun, fans can rest assured we will be taking the golf very seriously indeed.”
The third edition of the World Celebrity Pro-am will be held from October 24-26 at the integrated resort. A total of 24 professional golfers and 24 celebrities will join the event, which includes a demonstration of the new combination sport, football golf.
Also set to represent China’s entertainment industry at the event are movie legend Feng Xiaogang, actors Chen Daoming and Wang Zhiwen, and singer Sun Nan.
Hong Kong celebrities taking part include actors Eric Tsang, Natalis Chan and Michael Wong, and actress Miriam Yeung. Three of Korea’s biggest entertainment stars, actress Gianna Jun and singers Rain and Lyn, are also due to appear.
The Mission Hills World Celebrity Pro-am is sponsored by American Express, Porsche, Stella Artois, Tibet 5100, Kohler, Lindt, San Pellegrino and Appletiser.
Basketball legend Yao Ming will participate in the tournament for the second consecutive year
Chris Evans, Kenny G, Jessica Alba and Morgan Freeman are among the celebrities who will be attending the tournament