While the teenage males (12-year-old Ye Wocheng, 14-year-old Guan Tianlang, 16-year-old Dou Zecheng and others) have garnered recent attention for men’s golf in China, it’s the women who continue to lead the way.
As in tennis, where Li Na and another seven players in the world’s Top 200 far outshine their male counterparts (one player in the Top 150), golfer Feng Shanshan (women’s world no. 8) is far ahead of China’s top-ranked male golfer (Wu Ashun, no. 178), and now the women have a home tournament worthy of that ranking.
The LPGA recently announced the creation of the Reignwood LPGA Classic, to be held at the Jack Nicklaus-designed Pine Valley Golf Club in Beijing October 3-6. The purse is a healthy $1.8 million, though it’s been hilariously reported by China Daily as $890 million here and a staggering $18 billion here (don’t you just love those Chinese-English conversions?).
Feng became the first Chinese winner – male or female – to win a major when she won the 2012 LPGA Championship, and was recently signed by IMG, who are also staging the tournament. Former world number 1 and five-time major winner Taiwan’s Yani Tseng, is another big reason why golf is growing in this part of the world. Tseng signed a two-year sponsorship deal with the Reignwood group – organizers of this new tournament – in 2011, but remains proud of her Taiwanese heritage despite rumors that Reignwood were set to offer a $25 million sweetener for Tseng to wear the PRC flag instead.
Elswehere, promising teenage amateur Liu Yu who has climbed up the world rankings from 585 to 390 this year alone is another one who could shine at China’s first LPGA tournament in five years. Xu Guangshu, Deputy Director of the Beijing Sports Bureau, slightly over egged the pudding with this line:
“The Reignwood LPGA Classic is the biggest event in the capital after the Beijing Olympics in 2008.”
But you can’t fault him for trying and it’s not even close to being the most exaggerating sporting claim this week.