OVERALL TOP TEN 1 Korea* 268 2 Philippines* 271 3 Italy* 274 4 Nigeria 276 5= Singapore 277 Malaysia 277 7= HONG KONG 278 Pakistan 278 9 Myanmar 280 10 Uganda 282 11 Sri Lanka 284 12 Indonesia 285 13 Kenya 288 14 Swaziland 290 15 Bangladesh 293 16 Ghana 294 17 Brunei 301 18 Nepal 302
By the start of the back-nine it’s clear that Korea and the Philippines are going to earn the first two qualifying berths. Racing to the turn in a mere 33 strokes, the Korean duo of Bae Sangmoon and Kim Hyung-tae has the tournament won, while Angelo Que and Mars Pucay have also done enough thanks to their solid play. But it’s the battle for that final spot that has everyone transfixed. Italy, as expected, shows their class under pressure by firing a fine 68 to finish at 14-under. Nigeria isn’t out of it yet however. Conventional wisdom dictates that Oyebanji and Odo, upon realizing their situation, should fold like a couple of cheap Mongkok suits. But they’ve hung on gamely and by the time they reach the final hole they’re only one shot back. A birdie at the par-five will force a playoff with the
Top three teams qualify for the Omega Mission Hills Word Cup
Fortis frolic (clockwise from top): the Philippines cruised into the World Cup; Uganda’ s Emos Korblah on the dance floor; quite, please; Freeman does the honours.
Molinari brothers. An eagle will seal their place at Mission Hills. Odo, like he’s done all week, stripes it a right down the middle. It’s a great drive and the Molinaris’ know it. Francesco and Eduardo look physically sick. Despite their modesty at the start of the week, they came here fully expecting to book their trip to China. Now they don’t seem so sure. But then disaster. Oyebanji, with 240 yards to the centre of the green and 3-wood in hand, tops it. He literally tops it 80 yards in front of him. The ball doesn’t get above ankle height. And worse, it’s finished in an awkward lie beside a fairway bunker. The galleries are stunned, Oyebanji is stunned; the Molinaris’ are stunned. It’s probably his worst shot the poor guy has hit in his life, and it’s come at the most important moment of his career. It’s nothing short of tragic. Odo can do no more than to hack it up towards the green and when a shell-shocked Oyebanji fails to hole his chip, it’s all over.
China’s New School
Approach The recent success in the HSBC National Junior Golf Championship of pupils from one of China’s first golf boarding schools shows how the partnership between the banking giant and the China Golf Association is driving the development of youth golf in China BY TIM MAITLAND
HK GOLFER・NOV/DEC 2008
ike all the larger cities in China, Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province, which in turn is the home of the Shaolin Temple and the birthplace of Kung Fu, has a brand spanking new airport and a silky smooth highway. Like all the big Mainland metropolises, new structures—a dramatic aluminium spiral here, a mirrored tower there—seem to be racing each other towards the clouds. At first glance this city—classified as a second tier or prefecture-level city, and comprising 3.5 million people in its urban area, which ranks it just outside China’s top 10—is a facsimile of the rapid development along the east coast. But here, a region steeped w it h t he h istor y of t he a ncient Sha ng Dy nast y, roughly in the middle of a triangle between Beijing, Shanghai and the Terracotta A rmy cit y of X i’a n, t he growth is different. Even the big-city visitors from the coast, where foreign involvement and investment is constantly evident, remark that Zhengzhou is “very Chinese”. It’s hard to put a finger Shi Yuting on why. It is tiny things, HK GOLFER・NOV/DEC 2008
Golf camp: (clockwise from top): Junior training at Huangshan; LV Zheng, one of China’s junior stars. 44
like the highway that has an “overtaking lane” and a “driying lane” [sic]. It’s the fact that here, even more than in the east, the road markings represent merely a basis for negotiation rather than a definition of the right of way. It’s the sweet corn drying on every available roof space and even on the roads as preparation for the livestock’s winter feed. It’s the daily test of resolve and persistence that your average caffeine-addicted journalist has to undergo before abandoning the seemingly hopeless quest for his daily fix. All this serves as a reminder that, while China grows exponentially, it grows in a myriad of different ways. 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
HK GOLFER・NOV/DEC 2008
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. Three of the tournament’s winners—Lv Zheng, Zhang Yucong and Shi Yuting— are among the 12 pupils at the school based at the Huangshan Pine Golf & Country Club in Anhui province, which is believed to be one of only three full-time golf boarding schools (along with ones in Nanshan in Shandong and at Mission Hills in Guangdong) in China. “We’re following the format of the Australian golf schools. The children do their academic every morning and then practice their golf in the afternoon,” explains Kuo Jia-kuei, the teaching professional from Taiwan who coaches the Huangshan pupils. Their success is, according to HSBC’s Group Head of Sponsorship Giles Morgan, indicative of how the bank’s partnership with the CGA is promoting golf’s development in China. “The media coverage the HSBC National Junior Golf Championship is generating in China has heightened awareness of youth development within the golf industry. You can bet your bottom dollar that Huangshan’s success and the success of any other similar schools will not go unnoticed among the other golf course owners and you can guarantee that many of them are turning their attention to training their own junior players too,” Morgan says. “The primary objective of the HSBC Youth Golf Program was to create a sustainable framework around which the CGA can evolve and develop the sport. But we knew creating a legitimate mini-tour for junior golf would have the secondary effect of increasing the enthusiasm for junior development within the golf industry. ” In turn, Kuo Jia-kuei says Huangshan’s production line—they’ve already provided Liu WWW.HKGA.COM
Yu-xiang to the China national team—would grind to a halt without the tournament structure of the National Junior Championship. “The tournaments are like professional events. They’re very good,” Kuo says. “It teaches the children the ‘E.S.P.’ (extra sensory perception) of golf. It’s very important. The atmosphere and the environment of tournament play, the experience is very important. The events are very good for the players because they can see step by step how they are improving. They become more focused on their goals in training and understand how their development has to be step by step too. The environment is also very good for the children because it makes them feel like real players. When they return after the tournaments they are more enthusiastic about their training.” Kuo’s enthusiasm is shared by his charges. 10-year-old Shi Yuting, who has dominated her age group in the girls’ competition winning five of the six legs ahead of November’s final, beams with enthusiasm as she charmingly discusses what she likes about the junior championship tournaments. “They’re really great. We go to courses that are very challenging. They give us a chance to play against each other, against people the same age,” she says. Unlike some of the other kids her age who profess to enjoy the fun games that have been introduced after the first of the two nine-hole rounds the younger players compete over, Shi’s focus is noticeably more on the tournaments, and she has little doubt why she’s outperforming her rivals. “I practice every day. Every morning I got to school and then I practice in the afternoon. And I play on the course twice a week,” she explains. Shi lives with her mother at the Huangshan school, while her younger sister and father reside an hour’s flight away in Shanghai. There’s a sacrifice involved for any child at that age to live away from her family, which she explains in some ways when discussing her status as one of China’s most promising young golfers. “Sometimes I will remind myself that I’m the best in China to cheer myself up,” she admits, modestly. “There are so many other girls and it can feel like there is pressure, so I sometimes think about that to make myself happy.” But the approach of Kuo, seems to echo the child-friendly approach of the HSBC National Junior Championship, as Lv Zheng, the 15-year-old winner of the senior girls’ group at Zhengzhou, explains. “I like Mr. Guo very much.” says Lv, resplendent in Scotty Dog earrings and a fringe nodding towards Emo, using the Mandarin pronunciation of her coach’s name. “Mr. Guo WWW.HKGA.COM
is very kind. He’s patient and he’s taught me a lot of useful knowledge. He will scold me for not practicing properly or for not hitting my fairway woods far enough, but he presents his knowledge in a very simple and easily understandable way. He also has a lot of personal charm, so everyone enjoys working with him,” states Lv, who was discovered by China Tour professional Cui Xiao-long, the day she first swung a golf club in Beijing two years ago. Lv’s testimonial in turn points towards a more modernistic approach. In Asia in general, education to this day can still tend towards rote learning and discipline, but things are changing. And as they are with everything in China, and in particular in golf, they’re changing fast.
HK GOLFER・NOV/DEC 2008
Published on Oct 31, 2008
WWW.HKGA.COM 42 HK GOLFERNOV/DEC 2008 WWW.HKGA.COM HK GOLFERNOV/DEC 2008 43 Junior Development OVERALL TOP TEN 1 Korea* 268 2 Philippines* 2...