Sunday, November 1, 2009

Don't Look Now, But China's Girl Golfers Are Getting Good

As IceCat from Seoul noted in comments earlier this morning [Update: and on Waggle Room!], it was an all-Korea sweep in the world of women's professional golf this weekend: Na Yeon Choi on the LPGA/KLPGA, Mi-Jeong Jeon on the JLPGA, and Bo-Mi Suh on the LET in China. Suh has been having an undistinguished season on the KLPGA, but held off Solheim Cupper Gwladys Nocera down the stretch, not to mention beat other LPGA Q-School-bound LET stars Marianne Skarpnord and Iben Tinning and current or past LPGA members Julieta Granada, Minea Blomqvist, Sophie Giquel, Anna Rawson, Pornanong Phatlum, and Nontaya Srisawang.

But someday, golf historians may look back on the 20 years after Se Ri Pak's stirring U.S. Women's Open victory in 1998 as a mere blip. Given China's size and expanding wealth and the Chinese government's anticipated investments in developing players who can compete on a global stage at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, the future of Chinese professional golf is looking brighter than ever.

Here's Tim Maitland with the results of the 1 large tournament this week that Korean golfers couldn't win. Check out the scores these kids are shooting. But will they prove me wrong and win 10 LPGA memberships before 2020? Only time will tell.

Apple at the Core as China's Juniors End Giant-Killing Season
Tim Maitland

Apple Yang Jiaxin completed a remarkable week of golf by retaining her title at the HSBC National Junior Championship in Shanghai on Sunday. Competing, once again, in the most senior age group and against girls up to three years older than her, the 14-year-old from Beijing shot a final round of 80 in windy conditions at the Sino-Bay Country Sports Club in Shanghai, which proved enough to give her a one-shot victory.

It was her sixth round in six days and, even more incredibly, her second triumph having beaten the adults to claim the Hangzhou Leg of the CITIC China Amateur Tour on Thursday before rushing the 90 miles (145 kilometres) to Shanghai in time to tee off on Friday.

"I am so tired!" she exclaimed.

"I had five days in Hangzhou on a very hilly course and rushed straight here. I found it difficult to concentrate here. It felt like my arms and my body weren't connected."

After her remarkable six-day stretch Yang won't have time to rest; she now faces a frantic week with her head in her text books for the important "mid exams." But even with a stressful week of Chemistry, Physics, Maths, Chinese and English ahead of her, Apple's mind was more focused on how to get better.

"After a win, you can be happy, but you've got to look at what you did and think about the things you need to improve."

Improvement was very much in evidence as the seven-tournament HSBC National Junior Championships, particularly as four different children from the China Golf Association have won events on this year's open-age amateur tour, with the girls claiming three of the five events so far.

As well as Yang's triumph last week, 13-year-old Zhang Jin took the men's title in his home town as children from the scheme occupied four of the six "podium" places in September's Beijing Leg at the California County Golf Club. 10-year-old Wang Ziyi was a remarkable winner of the women’s section in the capital, while Liu Yuxiang and Apple Yang filled the bronze medal positions in the respective competitions. In August in Dalian, Yang had finished second behind another 13-year-old winner amongst the adults Liu Yu.

"We're all improving at quite a fast speed," said Yang.

"Our technique has improved. The HSBC junior tournaments are the first step of our golf life. I've improved since this tournament last year. We just need more experience because we're all still making stupid mistakes. We've got a very good environment with this programme and everyone's supporting us."

The progress China's kids are making is far beyond most expectations, according to the London-based boss of the world's local bank's sponsorship, who has arrived in Shanghai to oversee their involvement in next week's WGC-HSBC Champions.

"To have our children going out and beating adults consistently in a sport where both physical and mental strength is important is stunning! We invested in this programme thinking it would take some time to for the framework of tournaments and the network of coaching and training camps, but we're seeing that China's junior golfers are developing with the same remarkable speed that China is showing in almost every other facet of life," said Giles Morgan, HSBC Group Head of Sponsorship.

"It's been a remarkable season for the programme and it makes me believe that China is going to develop some truly world-class players in the not-too-distant future!" he added.

Arguably the biggest improver of them all, however, is the winner of the 15-17 age group, Zhou Tian. The 17-year-old Zhejiang-born Beijinger only started practicing properly in May 2007 and when he made his first HSBC National Junior Championship appearance a year later he was only three shots short of a triple-figure score on each day. At Sino-Bay he improved by one shot each day, saving his best--a two-over-par 74 for the trickiest conditions--for the final round.

"My first win! It's a big prize for me!" he beamed.

"I think I've practiced very hard. I've thought a lot about how I can be better on the course and these tournaments are an experience that improves your heart, enhances your heart," Zhou added.

Tim Maitland

Age Groups
A: 15-17 years; B: 13-14 years; C: 11-12 years; D: 9-10 years; E: 6-8 years

HSBC China Junior Golf Program Winners on 2009 CITIC China Amateur Tour


Sept 13th-17th Beijing Leg: Zhang Jin, 13 years old


Oct 25th-29th Hangzhou Leg: Apple Yang Jiaxin, 14 years old.

Sept 13th-17th Beijing Leg: Wang Ziyi, 10 years old.

Aug 23rd-27th Dalian Leg: Liu Yu, 13 years old.

HSBC National Junior Championship Final
Sino-Bay Country Sports Club, Shanghai October 30th-November 1st
Leading scores


Group A:

225 – Zhou Tian 76, 75, 74
228 - Liu Yuxiang 77, 70, 81
231 - Huang Yongle 80, 76, 75

Group B:

218 – Zhang Jin 74, 70, 74
238 – Chen Zihao 81, 76, 81
243 – Zhao Zitong 87, 79, 77

Group C:

221 – Dou Zecheng 70, 76, 75
223 – Guan Tianlang 76, 73, 74
228 – Li Yuan 77, 78, 73

Group D:

149 – Hu Diandian 76, 73
149 – Yuan Haoyu 74 75
157 – Zhang Yucong 78, 79

Group E:

147 – Peng Bo 70, 77
153 – Xie Wenliang 79, 74
165 – Chen Guangshi 81, 84


Group A:

236 – Apple Yang Jiaxin 76, 80, 80
237 – Ashley Xiao Yi 82, 75, 80
239 – Lv Zheng 81, 81, 77

Group B:

217 – Liu Yu 76, 70, 71
228 – Lu Wanyao 75, 80, 73
230 – Lin Xiyu 74, 75, 81

Group C:

217 – Shi Yuting 73, 72, 72
229 - Zhao Qihao 75, 76, 78
229 - Fan Shiyang 73, 77, 79

Group D:

157 – Guan Ruqing 78, 79
160 – Liu Ruixin 81, 79
162 – Sui Xiang 82, 80

Group E:

179 – Du Mohan 92, 87
181 – Fan Kexin 93, 88
184 – Ye Lei 96, 88

2009 HSBC National Junior Championship Winners


Oct. 30th-Nov. 1st
A: Zhou Tian. B: Zhang Jin. C: Dou Zecheng. D: Hu Diandian. E: Peng Bo.

Sept. 18th-20th
Zhuhai Leg
A: Huang Yongle. B: Zhang Jin. C: Wang Yichen. D: Guan Tianlang. E: Chen Guangshi.

Aug. 17th-19th
Huangshan Leg
A: Wu Haochuan. B: Zhang Jin. C: Wu Yanwei. D: Liu Kaiwen. E: Peng Bo.

Jun. 12th-14th
Kunming Leg
A: Yin Qi. B: Zhang Jin. C: Zhang Huan. D: Lv Jiaye. E: Xie Wenliang.

May 15th-17th
Beijing Leg
A: Liu Yuxiang. B: Li Haotong. C: Dou Zecheng. D: Liu Kaiwen. E: Peng Bo.

Apr. 10th-12th
Shaoxing Leg
A: Jin Daxing. B: Liu Siyan. C: Dou Zecheng. D: Jin Zihao. E: Peng Bo.

Mar. 13th-15th
Taicang Leg
A: Wang Yucong. B: Zhao Zitong. C: Zhang Huan. D: Zhang Yucong. E: Peng Bo.


Nov. 1st
A: Apple Yang Jiaxin. B: Liu Yu. C: Shi Yuting. D: Guan Ruqing E: Du Mohan.

Sept. 18th-20th
Zhuhai Leg
A: Ashley Xiao Yi. B: Lin Xiyu. C: Ji Rong. D: Lin Jiaxin

Aug. 17th-19th
Huangshan Leg
A: Lv Zheng. B: Zhu Xiaoyu. C: Shi Yuting. D: He Sifan. E: Du Mohan.

Jun. 12th-14th
Kunming Leg
A: Apple Yang Jiaxin. B: Xu Qianyi. C: Ji Rong. D: Zhang Shilu. E: Fan Kexin.

May 15th-17th
Beijing Leg
A: Huang Zhiying. B: Liu Yu. D: Fan Shiyang. D: Zhao Jingwen. E: Tian Qi.

Apr. 10th-12th
Shaoxing Leg
A: Huang Zhiying. B: Lin Xiyu. C: Ji Rong. D: He Sifan. E: Zhu Wenqi

Mar. 13th-15th
Taicang Leg
A: Ge Ziyu. B: Lin Xiyu. C: Shi Yuting. D: He Sifan. E: Tian Qi.


Anonymous said...

I must have missed how the Chinese girls are getting good from this when Korea took everything - but you DEFINITELY nailed it on the head with your comment about how China is going to come along...and fast.

"...the Chinese government's anticipated investments in developing players who can compete on a global stage..."

Chinese athletics are today what the USSR and East Germany were in the 60's to 80's. Kids taken away from home at VERY early ages and put into government systems to turn them into athletic machines that will be discarded back into the masses if they do not perform.

Chinese gymnastics, swimming, diving, weight lifting, soccer, skating, etc. If the government thinks it will make them look good - they start a factory.

The Chinese diving and gymnastic teams were questioned heavily during the Beijing Olympics - and got every benefit of the doubt other countries didn't get. Proof of cheating was dismissed as fast as it came up.

These aren't kids who say that they WANT to learn a sport - they are subjects of the state and are told what they will do.

The Constructivist said...

CG, note that this junior tour is sponsored by HSBC. The Chinese state machine hasn't even gotten started yet wrt golf. As to whether it can replicate its successes in other sports, I'm open to being convinced. Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Thailand won't be standing still.

IceCat said...

Have a gander at my first-ever fan post on Ryan's site about Gwladys Nocera's weekend in China: