Sports / Golf

Wu leaps to forefront of Chinese game

By Yang Xinwei (China Daily) Updated: 2015-05-06 07:35

Wu leaps to forefront of Chinese game

Wu Ashun receives the golden jacket next to the trophy after winning the Volvo China Open in Shanghai on April 26.Johannes Eisele / Agence Francepresse

The current pride of China's golf is making history and also carrying the country's hopes of success on the world stage.

Wu Ashun was the first Chinese winner on the Japan Golf Tour, in 2012 at the JGT Toshin Golf Tournament in Ryosen, and then followed that a year later with victory at the Heiwa PGM Championship. Nearing 30, Wu also not only followed the footsteps of compatriots Cheng Jun (1997) and Zhang Lianwei (2003) by winning the 21-year-old Volvo China Open this year, he went a step further by becoming the first player from the country to capture a European Tour title on home soil.

"It's a long journey in a golf career, someone can hit a low score in their 30s, 40s, so I have to just be patient and keep practicing, keep playing the tournaments and it will come," Wu said after his victory.

On the final day of the Volvo China Open, the China national golf open championship, with two Chinese golfers tied for the lead going into the final round, there was a good chance one of them would make history.

Most eyes were on Li Haotong at the start of the round, the talented 19-year-old touted as a future golf star in China. Instead, it was Wu, who had recently taken six months off to rebuild his swing and had never had a top-10 finish on the tour, who took home the trophy.

Wu, who is ranked at world No 123 this week, is the third Chinese player to win on the tour and the first since Liang Wenchong took the title at the Singapore Masters in 2007.

Wu proved to be the steadiest player during a final round filled with momentum swings, delighting the home crowd in Shanghai with a final-round 71 to secure a one-stroke victory over David Howell of England.

Wu was rather unfazed by the plaudits after his victory.

"The biggest factor is that some of the world's best players were preparing for the WGC Match Play Championships in the US, providing a greater chance for the Chinese. And playing on home soil is also a big boost.

"I have many friends here and they helped me a lot and pushed me to play well."

The career turning point for the son of a farming family in south China's Fujian province came when he was 16 and attended a local golf school. Having turned pro in 2007 and establishing himself on the Asian Tour over the following two years - his best finish was fourth at the 2009 Singha Thailand Open - he switched to the Japan Golf Tour in 2010. It was there that he won his first title as a professional in 2012.

Wu believes the cliche of "practice makes perfect".

"I'm not a natural golfer, like most players. I just play on various tours, play a lot of tournaments and practice and practice."

He was already on the putting green preparing for an expected playoff at the Tomsom Shanghai Pudong Golf Club, when Howell, one of the best putters on the European Tour, took three shots from the edge of the 18th green for a bogey six to fall one behind Wu.

Howell had vastly more experience than the Chinese players, with 523 starts on the European Tour compared to just 26 for Wu and 13 for Li. Ten years ago, in Shanghai, he took on then-No 1 Tiger Woods in the final round of the HSBC Champions - and won the title.

With talented teenagers such as Li, the highest-ranked Chinese in the world at No 113, and Guan Tianlang, who, at 14 years, 5 months, was the youngest player to make the cut at a major championship - at the 2013 Masters - snapping at his heels, it would not be a surprise if Wu stepped his game up to an even higher level.

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