Bubba Watson’s second Masters title last weekend may have strengthened his challenge as a potential successor to Tiger Woods, but some compelling signs about the future direction of golf were seen at Augusta a few days earlier. Below is a real picture of the leaderboard at Augusta National, with the names Xu, Huang, Li and Cheng at the top, listed – correctly – as champions.
The long-awaited PGA Tour China Series – a collaboration between the PGA Tour and the China Golf Association – teed off on Thursday at the Mission Hills resort in Haikou on Hainan island, the first of 12 tournaments that will run throughout the year.
First some background, then some analysis…
Here’s my article in this month’s That’s Beijing magazine, which is now online, but was written before Dou Zecheng’s heroics at the China Open 10 days ago. The key to being the next Chinese golfing superstar? Money.
Last month, China’s 14-year-old golf sensation Guan Tianlang became not only the youngest player ever to tee off at the Masters in Augusta, but the youngest to make the cut at any PGA Tour event.
With all the attention at this week’s Volvo China Open on 12-year-old Chinese qualifier Ye Wocheng, it was perhaps no surprise that he shot a 7-over-par 79 in Thursday’s first round. But these Chinese youngsters just keep coming… 16-year-old amateur, Dou Zecheng, shot a 2-under-par 70, and sits tied for 11th, four strokes off the lead.
Dou may not be as famous as fellow Chinese teens Guan Tianlang, who made the cut in this year’s Masters, or Andy Zhang, who qualified for last year’s US Open, but he’s been on the radar for a while. His best achievement to date was a fourth place finish in the stroke play section of last year’s US Junior Amateur Championship, though he lost in the Round of the 16 in the subsequent match play competition. He is currently the top ranked junior golfer of those set to graduate in 2015, and number 8 overall.
16-year-old Jim Liu, number 2 overall in the junior ranks, is also playing in Tianjin. He’s an American, born to Chinese parents, and became the youngest U.S. Junior Amateur champion in history in 2010 (beating Tiger Woods’ record), but struggled on the front nine on Thursday, hitting the turn in +6, and finished with a 5-over-par 77, and 15-year-old Bai Zhengkai posted an 11-over-par 83. Meanwhile, Andy Zhang is NOT playing: he pulled out this week through injury. Continue reading 12-year-old golfer upstaged by 16-year-old veteran
Golf is on the up in China: 14-year-old Guan Tianlang made global headlines when he made the cut at the Masters last month; now it’s the turn of 12-year-old Ye Wocheng, who tees off in the European Tour’s China Open on Thursday in Tianjin. And Nike is due to announce the signing of two Chinese golfers in the coming days, just one more sign that the sport stands on the verge of a breakthrough in China…perhaps. Here’s my Sports Talk column on the perils of overhyping teen (and pre-teen) phenoms:
Potential, promise, upside… These are just some of the buzzwords used to describe how good something or someone could become. Whether the terms are applied to a financial investment or a budding sports star, it’s a large part of creating excitement about the future.
Typically adults are better than kids at most sports, but you could argue that’s not the case in diving (smaller bodies = less splash), gymnastics (younger athletes = more flexible) and now you can add golf to the list – or at least golf in China.
First there was 14-year-old Andy Zhang who gained a last-minute entry into the 2012 US Open as second alternate after Brandt Snedeker and Paul Casey both withdrew through injury. Then there was 13-year-old Guan Tianlang who played in last year’s China Open, a European Tour event, and will tee off at the Masters next week at the ripe old age of 14. And now there is Ye Wocheng, a 12-year-old who will next month break Guan’s record as the youngest to play on the European Tour. Continue reading Sports where puberty is a disadvantage