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Teenage titans rise to challenge against the pros

By SHI FUTIAN | China Daily | Updated: 2022-12-06 07:45
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Amateurs Fang Zeqian (R), 17, and Zhou Ziqin, 16, impressed against the pros at last week's Mitsubishi Electric Open.

For the six amateur players competing at last week's Mitsubishi Electric Open, the tournament represented a steppingstone toward their golfing dreams.

Seventeen-year-old Fang Zeqian led the way as the top amateur, stunning the predominantly professional field to finish tied-fifth at Suzhou Taihu International Golf Club on Sunday.

"This is the first time I've played in such a high-level professional event, and my result was really unexpected. I'm absolutely thrilled. The course and the whole competition environment have been great here," said Fang, a high-school student whose twin brother, Fang Zekun, is also a keen golfer.

"This is my first professional event but I actually didn't feel too much pressure. It was obvious, though, that I lack experience and need to improve many aspects of my game.

"I enjoy golf as each shot presents a new challenge. And each day the weather conditions and course are different. Golf has made me a more positive person. I use the same mindset that I have on the course to face whatever challenges life presents me."

Sixteen-year-old Zhou Ziqin from Shenzhen was another of the promising teenage talents who relished the chance to learn from the pros.

"As an amateur player, the Mitsubishi Electric Open is already my 12th professional event. The most memorable tournament for me was the Zhengzhou Classic on last year's China Tour when I finished fifth," Zhou, who finished tied-19th in Suzhou, told China Daily.

"The goal for me here was just to try my best with each swing and try to be patient as much as possible. I just wanted to avoid unnecessary mistakes and tried for the best possible result."

Zhou first picked up a golf club as a 4-year-old when his parents introduced him to the sport. He said that he fell in love with the sport instantly and intends to make golf his lifetime pursuit.

"I just want to keep my passion and love for the sport. I really enjoy the journey. Golf has brought me many valuable things, including a better mindset. I used to be very nervous, but now I can control my anxiety and I've become more patient."

Matching the youngsters' enthusiasm last week were a number of senior players, including 51-year-old Akinori Itotani, a Japanese office worker.

"I started to play golf when I was 30 years old, so I've been enjoying the sport for almost 22 years. I'm not that young anymore, so challenging high up the leaderboard is not so easy for me! But I'm still thrilled to be able to participate in the Mitsubishi Electric Open," Itotani told China Daily.

"This is actually my first professional tournament, and I was a little nervous. Also, it was pretty cold at the start of the tournament, so my body was stiff. But gradually the nerves eased and I managed a better performance later on."

Itotani was highly impressed by the organizers' efforts and expressed his gratitude for all the support and help he received at the tournament.

"Of course, it was pressurizing to play against the professional golfers, but all the pros were very kind and patient with me, which made me very happy," Itotani added.

"The caddies and all the organizers have done a great job for the players. Their work was so detailed and comprehensive. It was a great effort by everybody to ensure the success of the event."

Itotani played tennis when he was a student, but golf has been his lifestyle choice for the last two decades.

"These sports share many similarities. Golf and tennis require hard work and consistent training to produce a good result. In Japan, women's golf is very popular right now. It's a sport for a wider range of age groups," Itotani said.

"We need to create a better atmosphere around golf to increase its popularity. A Chinese golf superstar on the world stage would also be a massive boost to the sport."

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