Hands up if you can spot the apparent contradiction with these two recent headlines:
Remember the Chinese American kids who won at Augusta last month? One of them – 11-year-old Lucy Li – has just qualified for the US Women’s Open at Pinehurst and will become the youngest ever qualifier to play in the June 19-22 tournament, beating Lexi Thompson’s record (who was 12 in 2007). What’s more, Li wants to play for Hong Kong, where her family is from.
According to the SCMP, Li was born in Santa Clara, lives in Redwood Shores, California, and holds a US passport, but her mother has a Hong Kong identity card and “the family has told [Hong Kong national team coach Brad] Schadewitz she wants to play for Hong Kong.” Continue reading World’s new golfing prodigy “wants to play for Hong Kong”
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.
Chinese golfing prodigy Guan Tianlang made global headlines in April by becoming the youngest golfer ever to make the cut in a major championship, aged just 14. Now at the grand old age of 15, Guan was again competing against the pros last week, this time at the Hong Kong Open.
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.
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.
For all the attention lavished on Guan Tianlang last week, here’s a bit of context: his Weibo followers have swelled from about 20,000 a week ago to 28,000. Compare that to Chinese tennis star Li Na who has more than 21 million fans.
Numbers in China are notoriously hard to check, especially on a place like Weibo where fake and inactive accounts vastly outnumber real ones, but the point is clear: Guan barely registers on China’s sporting radar despite last week’s heroics. In fact, my guess is that his week at Augusta raised his international profile far more than his Chinese one, and that tells you everything about how far the game of golf still has to go here.
In a word, no – at least not this year – but now that he’s made the cut, how well can he realistically do?
The field of 93 has been pared down to 61, with Guan beginning Round 3 ranked tied for 55th with 6 other players (otherwise known as last equal). Obviously just making the cut is outstanding, but a top 50 finish is now a real possibility.
When Guan Tianlang walked off the 18th green at the end of a 3-over-par second round of 75 – and one hole removed from being controversially given a one-stroke penalty for slow play – he stood at +4 for the tournament, fractionally above the PROJECTED CUT line. But while his score was fixed, that line was not.
His first round of 73 stunned the sporting world, perhaps more so internationally than back home in China, where golf remains a niche sport. But making the cut would emulate Thursday’s achievements, even though it is now in the hands of the gods – and, as he found out to his cost, those of the officials.
As good as Guan Tianlang was on Thursday at the Masters – and he was very good – he’ll have to be every bit as good, perhaps better, on Friday to make the cut. His 1-over-par 73 leaves him tied for 46th place in a field of 94 players, and three shots clear of the next best amateur in the field.