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Feng's LPGA triumph will inspire women to tee up for success, reports Chen Xiangfeng in Beijing.
No pain, no gain. This time, that old sporting adage is being applied to women's golf.
In a bid to emulate the success of Yao Ming in basketball, Li Na in tennis and Ding Junhui in snooker, China's golfing authorities have for years been seeking a female Tiger Woods to boost the development of the sport ahead of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and expand the country's presence on the world's major platforms.
An increasing number of women's tours are organized every year in China, extra money is being invested at the grassroots level and more kids are being sent abroad to train and compete.
Those moves appear to have paid off after 22-year-old Feng Shanshan, a native of Guangdong province who began playing the sport 12 years ago, hit the headlines by becoming the first golfer from the Chinese mainland to win a major title by capturing the LPGA Championship.
Feng Shanshan watches her tee shot on the second hole during the final round of the LPGA Championship at Locust Hill Country Club in New York on June 10. [Photo / AFP]
Now, people have a reason to expect Feng, who arrived in the United States as a teenager before joining the Ladies Professional Golf Association in 2008, to keep progressing and make an impact similar to that of Yao, Li and Ding in their chosen fields.
"This victory can never have the same effect as that made by Li Na in the French Open last year, but it's a huge step forward for women's golf in China," Feng said. "I hope this win will help people understand more about golf in China."
Feng's breakthrough will undoubtedly inspire youngsters who are training and competing to realize their dreams. "Golf started late in China and we are still short of pro golfers," said Ye Liying, who became the first woman from the Chinese mainland to play in the US LPGA tour in 2005 and who currently plays on the Japanese LPGA tour. "It will inspire more people to get involved with the sport."
It's probably a little too early to say that Feng's victory will have the same enormous impact on Chinese golf that Pak Se-ri had in South Korea after she won two majors in 1998. Pak's victories inspired South Korean women to advance in the sport and the country is now a dominant force in the global game.
However, if Feng continues her impressive streak in the LPGA and major tournaments, women's golf in China will definitely have a brighter future, according to people within the sport. "I think Feng will raise the profile of Chinese golf, especially women's golf, just as Li Na did with tennis," said Li Hong, manager of the Chinese LPGA Tour, which was established in 2009. "Our younger generation now has a good example to follow. I hope more Chinese will grow up in the CLPGA and fight to achieve in the US LPGA and other major events."
Li said Feng's success will attract extra attention to the sport's prospects in the 2016 Olympics when the game is scheduled to be readmitted, not having featured since St. Louis in 1904, as well as China's own professional CLPGA tour.
A new course in Pudong New Area in Shanghai is gaining fame for its use of water features that offer a fresh challenge for golfers. [Photo/ CFP]