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.
The kids have been getting all the attention recently – and not just the teens, but those in single digits – though it will take a good few years before any of them progress to the pro ranks. But it’s important to have figures for China’s next generation of golfers to look up to, targets whose records they want to beat, and Wu Ashun – at 28, still young in golfing terms – will today become just the second Chinese male ever to play in the Open Championship.
Sina Weibo welcomes Manchester United
Manchester United finally – finally – have an official Sina Weibo page here after a shocking lack of presence here, filled largely by fan pages. For years, the powers that be at Old Trafford were arrogant enough to think that everyone would simply go to the team’s homepage, and the club has now also launched a Twitter page for the first time (@ManUtd). The site now has more than 100,000 followers (though always take Sina Weibo numbers with a sack of salt), as compared to close to four times that amount on Twitter. Nothing of particular note is up yet on the Weibo site – so far just a few pictures and headlines from their Asian Tour – but at least it’s a step in the right direction in trying to connect with Chinese fans.
Last November, when 14-year-old Chinese golfer Guan Tianlang won the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship to become the youngest player ever to qualify for the Masters, another young golfer missed out by the narrowest of margins. In second place, a single shot behind, was Taiwan’s Pan Cheng-tsung, who fired a stunning 65 to close the tournament, six shots better than Guan’s final round.
It struck me recently that the biggest obstacles 14-year-old Chinese golf sensation Guan Tianlang still has to face are nothing to do with sport: girls and money. Either or both could send him off the rails, or make him lose interest in golf altogether.
There are plenty of sports figures who have succumbed to both the ladies and the greenback. Soccer has a few examples, not least Sven-Goran Eriksson, the former England manager, who
is now set to [UPDATE: has now] become coach of Guangzhou R&F in the Chinese Super League.
Thursday was a mixed day of sport for China.
Let’s start with the good: 14-year-old golfer Guan Tianlang – he of Masters fame – looks well on his way to making his third cut in four PGA Tour events this year, playing at the Memorial Tournament at the invitation of Jack Nicklaus. Despite two bogeys in the last three holes, his even-par round of 72 was good enough for =41st place after Round 1. This is a strong field: 20 of the 120 players have one at least one major, and Guan is ahead of 12 of them.
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.
In this week’s round-up, Taiwan takes centre stage on the world sporting map, golfing teen sensation Guan Tianlang explores America, the most ludicrous claim you’ll hear this decade and a hot sporting WAG.
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.