Out at the Henan Synear Golf Club, in a tourist area close to the Yellow River, Chinese golf is growing too, and one only needs to look briefly at the different backgrounds of some of the winners of the Zhengzhou Leg of the HSBC National Junior Golf Championship to see how differently the future generations of Chinese professionals are developing.
China’s first two generations—led by Zhang Lian-wei and Liang Wen-chong respectively—were, generally, caddies and other employees at the golf courses that sprang up after Chung Shan Hot Spring became the first modern course in China in 1984.
While, broadly speaking, the pioneers depended on the benevolence of their club’s owner, the next generation, led by Hu Mu—the cream of whom are just starting golf scholarships in the United States—as the sons and daughters of the first of China’s newly-rich golf-playing entrepreneurs, were able to focus on golf because of their family’s wealth.
Hong Wei, the winner of the senior boys’ division, typifies the new source of talent for China. The 17-year-old from Shanghai only started playing golf three years ago, but eighteen months later put his studies on hold to work full time on his golf game. With the support of his businessman father he spends his days at a driving range near his home or playing at the Shanghai Tianma Golf & Country Club.
“Although I’ve only played a short time compared to the other players I believe with hard work and hard practice I can catch up with the others. That’s what my father always tells me. I’m practicing seven to eight hours a day. I’ve stopped school for a while so I can focus on golf,” he explains.
But look beyond Hong’s victory and one can start to see signs of how China might produce its own home-grown champions in the future, and in turn how the HSBC China Junior Golf Program, which encompasses the elite-level HSBC National Junior Golf Championship but also includes a number of grassroots development initiatives, is helping the China Golf Association accelerate the growth of the game. That growth is not just the rate of youth development itself, but also in the maturing process of the golf industry in China.
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