Tour for future stars tees off in Beijing

By Chen Xiangfeng (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-10-29 10:32

China's effort to develop golf in the wake of the sport's inclusion as an Olympic event from 2016 received a timely boost yesterday when the first China Amateur Golf Futures Tour (GFT) event teed off at the Beijing California County Golf Club.

More than 100 promising players, including 21 women, swung into action in the first round of the three-day tournament.

The GFT is expected to become a major part of the China Golf Association's (CGA) efforts to improve the game at the grassroots level and this season will feature events in Beijing and Shenzhen.

From next year, the tour will comprise five tournaments and a finale. That number is expected to increase in the coming years as the Tour becomes more established.

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"It's a tour for all of China's teenage players and amateurs," said Zhang Xiaoning, vice-president of the CGA.

"Like Yao Ming in basketball and Ding Junhui in snooker, China's golf needs a star like Tiger Woods."

China has a professional tour and attracts a number of Asian, European and US PGA tour events each year.

However, Zhang said the nation needed tournaments at the lower levels of the game.

Seventy percent of the players taking part in the Beijing GFT were born after 1980, 18 percent are less than 19 years old and the youngest two players are 11.

"After seven years, a large number of these players will be at their primes," said Zhang. "If we keep working hard on developing GFT and the sport at the grassroots level I am confident China's first group of Olympic players will come from them."

Pan Yanhong, 26, led the women's field with a three-over-par 75 after yesterday's first round and said the GFT would give Chinese women more opportunities to hone their skills in a competitive environment.

"We are in great need of competitions. We only have six or so events every year and it's far from enough," said Pan.

Zhu Shenghua carded one-over 73 to lead the men's competition.