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The all-round game

By Chen Xiangfeng (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-04-17 07:47
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The all-round game

Under the state-support system, China's full-time athletes do not get a broad education. During the China Amateur Golf Futures Tour this week, student golfers Zhao Qiming (left) and Cai Weifei from Shenzhen University explained how to do well in both academic and athletic pursuits under a different system. [Photos provided to China Daily]

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During the China Amateur Golf Futures Tour two student golfers from Shenzhen University tell youngsters the sport is not only about trying to win trophies. Chen Xiangfeng reports.

Zhao Qiming and Cai Wenfei are not the most promising golfers in the China Amateur Golf Futures Tour this week as they are already in their 20s.

They are also not the best, as both are yet to make a podium finish in a tournament.

But the duo from Shenzhen University still attracts attention for their roles as student-athletes and their understanding of the sport.

Unlike most other full-time Chinese athletes, they entered university in the normal way, through the national examination, and have very good academic records.

They also play better golf than other students and are members of the assembled national training team for the 2011 Shenzhen Universiade.

Whether or not they will be selected in the final list for the Universiade, they are proud of their involvement in golf.

"I never picked up a golf club before I entered the university," said Zhao, a senior student majoring in golf management. "I chose a major I had never heard of and then started to play the sport."

Zhao said everyone can play good golf as long as they work hard and put all their heart into it.

"You have to practice a lot and concentrate on it," said Zhao, whose favorite sports were basketball and soccer before university life.

"Some people doubted that I could play good golf as I started so late, but the truth is I play better than people who started the sport as children."

Zhao said a good education will help athletes perform better in sport.

The all-round game

"Every golf tournament is tough and each one is a chance to discipline yourself. Whether you win or lose, you will gain something," he said.

"How you play golf reflects your attitude to life. I keep a low profile but I never give it up."

'I'm not an athlete'

Zhao's classmate, Cai, 21, started playing golf at the age of 8 but regarded it as a hobby most of the time.

"My father pushed me a lot to spend more time on golf but I was not quite addicted to it," she said with a smile.

"I balanced my time on golf with my studies. So, like normal students, I entered the university through the national examination."

But Cai admitted golf has been an important part of her life since she started playing and that was why she chose golf management as her major at university.

She had more time to learn about the sport and to practice after her studies.

"I love the sport but I don't see it as my career," Cai said. "To me, competitive golf is just one part of the sport. You can have more choices if you learn enough about the sport.

"To be honest, I don't like people regarding me as an athlete. Golf is just a part of myself. It's not everything to me."

In China, the special state-support system in sports produces many world and Olympic champions but its shortcomings have become more and more apparent.

Lots of athletes struggle to find a decent job after retirement due to their lack of education during their athletic careers.

Cai said sport's ultimate aim is to make people healthy, confident and positive, and she hopes more Chinese athletes could be produced through the college system as they are in Western countries.

"Athletic and academic activities can be balanced. Lots of parents in China ask their kids to drop the academic work to spend more time on sport. It's hurting the kids' development in the long term," she said.

Cai is putting her opinions into practice.

She will continue as a graduate student at university in the next few years while also continuing to compete on the golf course.

"Before graduation I will learn more and make myself ready for different choices. I will also keep playing golf in the next four to five years to see if I can turn professional.

"If I fail on the golf course, it's OK. I have other choices. I believe in myself."