A new breed of young and ul­tra-tal­ented Chi­nese golfers is now burst­ing on the global stage with much bravado.

As Chuah Choo Chi­ang writes, a new breed of young and ul­tra-tal­ented Chi­nese golfers is now burst­ing on the global stage with much bravado.

HK Golfer - - Contents - By Chuah Choo Chi­ang

Dur­ing the Mas­ters Tour­na­ment in 2008, Arnold Palmer’s eyes glis­tened af­ter learn­ing that China’s Liang Wen-chong was in the elite field at Au­gusta Na­tional. The Amer­i­can golf leg­end took great pride in the fact that Liang was a prod­uct of China’s first mod­ern-day golf course, the Zhong­shan Hot­spring Golf Club, which Palmer de­signed and launched in 1984.

“I think it’s won­der­ful,” said Palmer of Liang’s pres­ence then at the fa­bled tour­na­ment.

“I think we are only see­ing the be­gin­ning of what is go­ing to hap­pen in China and Asia. I think it is go­ing to be tremen­dous. I know that when I built the first mod­ern golf course in China, that was it. And now there are hun­dreds of golf cour­ses over in China, and that means mil­lions of peo­ple there will have the op­por­tu­nity to play golf.”

Palmer’s words are prov­ing to be prophetic.

While Liang and Zhang Lian-wei have blazed the first trail for the pro­fes­sional game in China through their ex­ploits on the Asian Tour, a new breed of young and ul­tra-tal­ented golfers is now burst­ing on the global stage with much bravado.

A few years ago, 14-year-old ama­teur Guan Tian-lang made heads turn by be­com­ing the youngest player to sur­vive the half­way cut at the Mas­ters Tour­na­ment. Fans should now re­mem­ber two other Chi­nese names - Li Hao-tong and Dou Ze-cheng.

In what has been a sum­mer to re­mem­ber, Li and Dou, aged 22 and 20 re­spec­tively, de­liv­ered ground­break­ing per­for­mances that pun­dits be­lieve will pro­vide an­other push to­wards Asia’s dream of herald­ing a sec­ond

Ma­jor cham­pion fol­low­ing Y.E. Yang’s tri­umph at the 2009 PGA Cham­pi­onship.

Li, who is a prod­uct of the China Golf As­so­ci­a­tion-HSBC Ju­nior Golf Pro­gramme, fin­ished an im­pres­sive third at The Open Cham­pi­onship fol­low­ing a barn­storm­ing eight-un­der-par 63 in the fi­nal round at Royal Birk­dale. In 2015, the like­able Li fin­ished T7 at the World Golf Cham­pi­onships-HSBC Cham­pi­ons on home soil, ty­ing the likes of Jor­dan Spi­eth and Pa­trick Reed to sig­nal his im­mense po­ten­tial on the big stage.

The re­mark­able round, which in­cluded four clos­ing birdies, may have been one shot higher than Branden Grace’s in­cred­i­ble 62 which now stands as the low­est score in a Ma­jor. How­ever, Ernie Els, who played along­side the young Chi­nese in the fi­nal round, put Li’s ef­fort into con­text.

“That’s not the same num­ber as Gra­cie, but that’s as good a round,” said Els. “You could see he was not back­ing off. The wind was pick­ing up too. 63 in a fi­nal round is an un­be­liev­able round. Ob­vi­ously, Branden has the record. What he did yes­ter­day broke ev­ery record in the book. But to­day’s round for what it is as good as a round. It’s not the same num­ber, but it’s the same qual­ity golf.”

Seven days af­ter Li’s hero­ics, the be­spec­ta­cled Dou wrote an­other slice of his­tory by be­com­ing for the first main­land Chi­nese golfer to earn a PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour.

Dou, who hails from He­nan, broke into the top-25 of the Web.com money list af­ter claim­ing a life-chang­ing first US vic­tory at the Dig­i­tal Ally Open where he shot 15-un­der-par over the last two rounds.

“It’s a big honor to rep­re­sent China and come play in the United States,” said Dou. “Play­ing and learn­ing from the best, com­pet­ing and earn­ing my Tour card, it feels amaz­ing right now.”

Like Li, Dou also cut his pro­fes­sional teeth on the PGA Tour China Se­ries. Last year, he won four times en route to lift­ing the Or­der of Merit ti­tle which re­wards the win­ner with play­ing rights on the Web.com Tour. He be­lieves his game has im­proved and cred­ited the PGA Tour China Se­ries for shap­ing his early ca­reer.

“That was ev­ery­thing,” said Dou about his time on PGA Tour China Se­ries. “As an ama­teur, I was play­ing on PGA Tour China in a cou­ple of events. Just try­ing to grow my con­fi­dence and work on my skills while learn­ing.

“It’s go­ing to be pretty big. We’ve been talk­ing to the Chi­nese me­dia this year about a Chi­nese player po­ten­tially get­ting on to the PGA Tour. ‘How soon will they get their card?’… I just did it!”

The late Palmer would cer­tainly be smil­ing from the heav­ens with the lat­est emer­gence of Li and Dou.

Chuah Choo Chi­ang is the Se­nior Di­rec­tor, Com­mu­ni­ca­tions of PGA Tour and based in TPC Kuala Lumpur

"It's go­ing to be pretty big. We've been talk­ing to the Chi­nese me­dia this year about a Chi­nese player po­ten­tially get­ting on to the PGA Tour. 'How soon will they get their card?'… I just did it!”

- Dou Ze-cheng

Liang Wen-chong’s

T8 at the 2010 USPGA Cham­pi­onship was the pre­vi­ous best fin­ish in a Ma­jor by a Chi­nese golfer

Dou Ze-chen wrote an­other slice of his­tory by be­com­ing for the first main­land Chi­nese golfer to earn a PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Hong Kong

© PressReader. All rights reserved.