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Fairways to heaven

By SHI FUTIAN | China Daily | Updated: 2018-05-16 09:50
St. Andrews Golf Club in Zhengzhou, Henan province, has nurtured the careers of some China's finest players, with Dou Zecheng, Wu Ashun and Li Haotong all previous winners of the China Tour event there before they went on to achieve bigger things on the international stage. CHINA DAILY

Zhengzhou tournament a breeding ground for future stars

St. Andrews Golf Club in Zhengzhou has been the launchpad for many of the current crop of China's trailblazing professionals.

On Thursday a fresh band of hopefuls tee off for the eighth edition of the Asia Pacific Classic, bidding to add their names to the illustrious list of former champions.

Co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour, the fifth stop on the China Tour will feature around 150 players from 20 countries and regions battling for a piece of the $300,000 purse.

"The club has been focusing on promoting golf and its spirit in China, and it has been working with the China Tour for eight years," said Li Jinliang, an official from the China Golf Association.

"The club and the tournament here have become flagships in China. There is a sense of responsibility on the tour and at the club to make St. Andrews a promised land for domestic players."

Li Haotong won his first career title here back in 2014 to kickstart his rise to superstardom.

The 22-year-old is now a force to be reckoned with on the global stage, becoming the first Chinese male golfer to crack the world's top 50 after making his mark at the British Open and the Masters.

Wu Ashun claimed the 2012 title and has since bagged two European Tour victories-the 2015 Volvo China Open and 2016 Lyoness Open-while up-and-coming local talent "Marty" Dou Zecheng, 21, got his career up and running by winning the 2016 tournament in Zhengzhou.

"It's the eighth year for St. Andrews to host the China Tour and I got my first career championship there," said Li, who will not play this year but sent his best wishes to all involved.

"Since St. Andrews, I've achieved better and better performances. I really want to thank the golf club for bringing us such a high-quality tournament. I hope everything will go well this year."

Wu Tuxuan, who triumphed at the Colorful Yunnan Classic in Kunming last month to become the only homegrown winner on the tour this season, could lead China's charge.

"I really want to thank St. Andrews for supporting domestic players and I hope everyone can enjoy the tournament," said Wu.

A strong foreign challenge stands in the way of a home victory, including American Charlie Saxon, the winner of the first two stops on the tour.

Organizers hope the tournament can give golf's rising popularity in China another timely boost.

"As a co-sanctioned event, the Asia Pacific Classic is a great opportunity to boost the game's development in China and the Asia-Pacific region as a whole," said China Golf Association secretary-general Pang Zheng.

"We welcome the challenge of the top international golfers, and I believe, with the fierce competition, the event will be a spectacular extravaganza for fans."

Hosting an international tournament is also a big deal for sport in Henan province.

"The Asia Pacific Classic has become a great opportunity for local golfers and fans to learn and communicate," said Hu Meng, an official with the Henan Golf Association.

"The tournament has helped the promotion of the golf in our province.

"After years of effort and development, I believe this year the tournament will be more spectacular and will see more local people involved in the sport."

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