Guan Tianlang, the 14-year-old kid who made the cut at the Masters, might be China’s most famous golfer, but Feng Shanshan is undoubtedly China’s best golfer right now (or ever, for that matter). She won the 2012 LPGA Championship to become the country’s first golfer – male or female – to win a major. More than a year later she is finally getting some recognition at home.
Next week, the golfing world will be squarely focused on Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods as they play in a dream Nike pairing for the first two rounds of the US Open, with Masters champion Adam Scott also along for the ride.
But this week the women play their second major of the year, the rain-delayed LPGA Championship, and the marquee group was the tournament’s last three winners: China’s Feng Shanshan, Taiwan’s Yani Tseng and American Christie Kerr.
I seem to have been writing lots about golf recently, but there is more big news this week, this time on the women’s side. Taiwan’s Yani Tseng has just re-signed with IMG, in what could be a huge step to getting her career back on track. She’s only 24, but has fallen a long way from the highs of 2011 when she won 12 times, including racking up a fifth major championship.
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.
Lists like SportsPro magazine’s Most Marketable Athletes [full list below] are equal parts inspired and enraging. I love the fact that Brazilian Paralympian Alan Oliveira (no. 17) is included, combining his age, talent and good looks with the undoubted boost to Brazilian sport that the next World Cup and Olympics will bring, almost as much as I hate the selection of Seth Jones (39), who is largely unknown even within his own sport, and, at 18, may not even play a single NHL game in the next three years even if he later develops into an All-Star.
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.
While the world’s press are catching up with news of David Beckham’s CSL deal, a more important signing in the world of Chinese sport in the last week might end up being female golfer Feng Shanshan partnering with IMG.
Feng was the first Chinese player to earn membership on the LPGA Tour after earning her card at qualifying school in 2008 and, last year, became the first major champion from the mainland – male or female – when she won the LPGA Championship. She’s currently ranked number five in the world.