New Zhang-Liang partnership for Cup

Updated: 2011-10-25 08:03

By Yang Xinwei (China Daily)

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New Zhang-Liang partnership for Cup

Liang Wenchong shoulders the task of leading newcomer Zhang Xinjun at the Omega Mission Hills World Cup in Haikou, Hainan province, from Nov 24-27. [Provided to China Daily]

China's golf trailblazer, Zhang Lianwei, gives way to newcomer Zhang Xinjun, who will team up with Liang Wenchong at the World Cup of Golf in November, Yang Xinwei reports.

It is still a Zhang-Liang pairing, but China's representatives at this year's Omega Mission Hills World Cup will be a new partnership of Liang Wenchong and 24-year-old Zhang Xinjun, who will fly the flag for the host nation from Nov 24-27.

In 2009, the Zhang member of the team was 46-year-old veteran Zhang Lianwei. However, this year the trail-blazing Chinese golfer, who has won on the European and Asian Tours, is stepping aside for his younger counterpart, the up-and-coming Zhang Xinjun.

This new partnership is full of potential and the host nation is already hoping it will bring a new dynamism to the Chinese challenge at the Mission Hills Resort in Hainan.

In 1995, David Chu, founder of the Mission Hills Group, brought the World Cup of Golf to China for the first time. That year, the 41st edition of the tournament, saw Chinese representatives Zhang Lianwei and Cheng Jun finish 27th, in the country's first ever appearance at the event.

That year, Liang Wenchong was a mere 17-year-old making his first tentative steps in the sport, in Zhongshan, Guangdong province.

"I had just picked up golf two years earlier, and every day I immersed myself totally in the sport," said Liang. "I got up very early and jogged to the course for practice; and then went back to the course after school to hone my skills after dark.

"In those days the only thing I thought about was to practice, to enrich my experience and to integrate myself into the world of golf. Other than concentrating on learning from others, I didn't think too much ... such simple days."

In 2001, Liang made his World Cup debut, partnering a golfing figure who had been an inspiration to him - Zhang Lianwei. "That year the World Cup was held in Gotenba in Japan," Liang said, "It was the first time I took part in the competition and everything was so new and fresh to me. I went to Japan to learn."

Liang Wenchong and Zhang Lianwei were partners four times in the World Cup and achieved their best result in 2007 when they finished 11th. Despite falling short of their goal to finish in the top 10, their partnership was considered a success, taking into account their impressive performances at the Chinese domestic tournament, the Buddha Cup, and the Dynasty Cup held between Japan and the rest of Asia.

Liang said: "I'm very grateful to Zhang. He is my mentor as well as my friend and I consider him to be like my elder brother. Without his help and guidance I would never have got to where I am today - Zhang is the most remarkable of China's first-generation golfers. He plays a pro-active role in helping newcomers to the sport. He's the pioneer for golf in China and has blazed a trail for other players."

This year, 24-year-old Zhang Xinjun will take the 46-year-old's place. Zhang has a strong pedigree, having won China's Pro-Am tournament in 2008 and again in September of this year.

Zhang Xinjun said: "I've experienced a lot since winning my last championship and have played in several tournaments at home and abroad, such as the Asian Games. I suffered some setbacks, yet I have learnt a great deal from them.

"I've had a lot of ups and downs since winning my first championship, but after turning pro I think I've improved a lot, especially since I managed to win the Pro-Am again this year - I was in pretty good form that week. Also, I'm more stable and have a good attitude now. I try not to get upset if I perform poorly and I don't let it affect the rest of my game."

Liang Wenchong speaks highly of his new partner, saying: "I first teamed up with Zhang Xinjun at the Buddha Cup in 2008, and his swing, pace and feel for the ball is very impressive.

"He's a hardworking player and, more importantly, he's dedicated towards learning and improving his game - he seems to have developed his own system. At the Nanshan China Masters this year, Zhang Xinjun impressed me again. He showed that he'd gained more professionalism from being with the national team and had made outstanding progress - laying a solid foundation for his career to go from amateur to professional. He has a bright future ahead of him."

In May of this year, the new Chinese lineup made its first appearance at the Nanshan tournament in Shandong province. For the upcoming World Cup, the China Golf Association has spared no effort to support Liang and Zhang, using all of the resources at its disposal.

This year is Liang's fifth appearance in the World Cup, and it's been a decade since his first appearance. His experience benefits not only his own performance, but that of the team.

"As a professional player, we compete in most games only as individuals, but the World Cup is the only contest that allows us to represent our country. We wear national flags with pride, something which brings us a sense of honor and responsibility."

Liang concluded: "Experience is important on the course but we shouldn't be a slave to it - sometimes thinking outside the box will do both of us good. There is no distinct leader in our team between myself and Zhang Xinjun. Full communication and trust is the most important thing.

"My personal goal for this World Cup is to achieve my best ever score - so this is also the team's goal".

New Zhang-Liang partnership for Cup

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