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Putting talent on path to success

By SHI FUTIAN in Xiamen, Fujian province| CHINA DAILY| Updated: Dec 9, 2019


China's Lin Xiyu poses with the Macalline Women's China Open trophy after her victory in Xiamen on Dec 8. CHINA DAILY

Women's China Open nurturing rising stars and aiming to boost global profile
Since its inception in 2006, the Macalline Women's China Open has been an important platform for Chinese talent to launch themselves onto the international stage.

Chinese No 1 Feng Shanshan credits the tournament for playing a pivotal role in her early development, helping her gain valuable experience before she eventually went on to top the world rankings.

After staging its latest edition last week at Orient Xiamen Golf& Country Club in Fujian province, where local star Lin Xiyu ran out a winner on Sunday to pocket a check for 315,000 yuan ($44,790), organizers have big ambitions for the event. They hope that one day it will be held in the same regard as majors such as the US Women's Open and Women's British Open.

"Many people consider the tournament as the cradle for young talent because the Women's China Open is our flagship event," Tseng-Kwan Pen, the honorary vice-president of the China Golf Association and chairman of the China LPGA Tour, told China Daily.

"With a big purse and 50 world ranking points up for grabs, all the best players try to come back for this particular tournament.

"But the LPGA has the highest world ranking points because it has the best players. So how do we break that monopoly? There's a vacuum in Asia. What we want to do is to create a new market in Asia where all the best players can come during their offseason."

Pen reckons southern China's favorable climate for golf is a major reason his organization's ambitious plans for the Women's China Open could ultimately be realized.

"During December, January and February, you have no tournaments in the US, Europe, Japan and Korea because it's too cold. But in southern China, the weather is still fine. So the strategy is to use the offseason time.

"The top Asian players who play the LPGA Tour all return home, so they have the time to play here. We can also attract players from the US and Europe if our purse is high enough. If we can get enough sponsors, we can contact all the best players in the world and invite them to come here.

"The world ranking points available are based on who is playing at your tournament. If we can invite all the world's top players, then we'll have high world ranking points."

However, considering that Chinese golf remains in the infancy of its development, Pen believes that the sport must look beyond traditional methods of promotion to broaden its appeal in the world's most populous nation.

Attracting more sponsors and opening more golf courses would help, but embracing the digital world, he contends, could be a real game-changer.

"It's not just about golf video games, you want something real. So, that's why we should introduce and promote golf simulators," explained Pen.

"You can't simulate basketball or soccer, but golf is different because you don't have to run. You stand there and you hit the ball.

"Nowadays, simulators are very advanced. They can break down your swing, speed and power. They offer analysis and statistics so you can learn how to be a better player. Simulators are not just for education and entertainment, they will eventually evolve into a new type of tournament.

"On a real-life golf course, you can only have about 150 players maximum competing on a single day. On a simulator, you could have 10,000 competing at the same time."

Before that future arrives, however, playing on foreign tours in a bid to emulate Feng's feats remains the best option for China's up-and-coming talent.

Rio Olympics bronze-medalist Feng was the main attraction last weekend in Xiamen, where she finished four shots off Lin's total in third. LPGA Tour star Feng said she was delighted to return to the tournament that has aided so much.

"The Women's China Open was the highest level of tournament I had ever played years ago," said Feng. "For me at that time, I learnt a lot in the tournament. Now I have to make more contributions to Chinese golf."

The 30-year-old reckons it's time for a new generation of Chinese golfers to make a name for themselves on the world stage.

"I've actually witnessed the growth of many young sisters who competed at the Women's China Open. When I played the Women's China Open for the first time, many of them hadn't even started to play golf," she said.

"We need more Chinese players who can shine on the international stage and win honors for our country. That will prove Chinese golf is as good as any country in the world.

"We need more new faces. After all, people must be tired of just hearing the names of our generation of players.

"Every time, there is a discussion about Chinese golf, there are just one or two names."