Sports / Golf

A place to grow pros

By Chen Xiangfeng (China Daily) Updated: 2012-05-13 07:50

A place to grow pros

Wu Ashun of China tees off during the Nanshan China Masters Pro Am golf event in Nanshan, Shandong province in June of 2011. The OneAsia tournament this year takes place from Oct 8-14. Nanshan Group has worked with the Chinese Golf Association to build the CGA-Nanshan International Training Center to provide top-class pro training for Chinese golfers. [Photo/Agencies]

A place to grow pros

A place to grow pros

Top-level coaches in a comprehensive training center might have a huge impact on golf development as China still seeks its 'Tiger Woods', Chen Xiangfeng reports from Nanshan, Shandong province.

The ambitious and over-used mantra of "finding a Chinese Tiger Woods" has been around golf circles in this country for a long time, but he, or a Tigress Woods, are still nowhere to be seen. [Related story: Teeing off]

There are new golf clubs springing up, more wealthy parents bringing their children to the courses and an increasing number of international tournaments held in China each year.

However, the reality remains that few Chinese faces are reaching the major international tours.

The Chinese Golf Association (CGA) is making its best efforts to speed up the sport's development, especially with the fact the 2016 Olympics are just four years away; at which golf will return to the Games fold.

Now, in Nanshan, Shandong province, the CGA has focused on a key to golfing success - professional training.

The CGA has teamed up with big-spending company Nanshan Group to open the CGA-Nanshan International Training Center.

"Future major winners and Olympic champions will grow from this place," said optimistic CGA chief Zhang Xiaoning. "China is a latecomer in golf and still lags far behind in professional training and coaching. This center is the first one in China to provide comprehensive training. Our golfers can receive long and systematic training and gain all-round services and coaching classes.

"The days are numbered before we have some of the best Chinese players coming from here," Zhang said at the facility's launch earlier this week.

Despite more European Tour and OneAsia events coming to China, and Chinese players having more competitions to compete in, the world's most populous nation is still a fair way from producing that one superstar to give the sport a huge boost - like Yao Ming for basketball and Ding Junhui did for snooker.

The CGA realizes professional training for young guns is vital to future success.

"Without professional training, it is difficult to be a top-level player - even if you work extremely hard by yourself," Zhang said. "With this center, we will start seeking cooperation with the US PGA and European tours to put together a top-level management and coaching team."

Fredrik Lindgren, head of the European Tour Performance Institute, visited the center and gave it high marks.

"A year and half ago, the CGA and Nanshan Group (which invested in building the center) visited our institute, and we showed them how to improve golf by looking at the body. Since then we have had very close contact with the CGA to help them with the development of this center.

"Now, I come to the new center and it's amazing. The scale of this center is huge. In terms of facilities, it is international level and it is very strong."

But Lindgren said the quality of coaches hired would be a significant factor in its success.

"It all depends on the coaches. If the coaches have the knowledge to best use the equipment, then you will have a perfect situation.

"We are now talking about a co-operation between coaches. Possibly we will do that soon."

Blane Merritt, general manager of TPC Southwind and an expert in golf management, was invited to make an assessment.

He said China was doing the right thing for the sport's development here.

"I have come to this place three times and I have had the opportunity to see the growth and vision come together," he said.

"The US has around 18,000 golf courses. I'm not sure how many in China. Maybe 600 or 700. I do not think it will take China a long time to get there, but it will not happen overnight. But they are doing the right things."

Apart from the domestic training center, China has opened a base in Australia to give its national members more experience from overseas coaches in foreign conditions.

"Golf's inclusion in the Olympics means the sport has become a part of the state-run system, like badminton and table tennis," Zhang said. "Our national players will now get extra support from the government.

"We have opened a center in Sydney and hope high-level Australian coaches can help lift the players' performances."

Brian Thorburn, CEO of the Australian PGA Tour and a board director of OneAsia, said the partnership between the two countries would benefit young Chinese golfers.

"We are both part of OneAsia. We bring our members here to work here. You have young students coming to Australia to learn and develop," he said.

Thorburn believes it will not take long for a Chinese player to break through and win major events.

"I see great potential here," he said. "I have met some very good players with great potential. And some young talents are emerging. These young players will make China stronger and grow even more on the world stage. I think in maybe 10 years, Chinese golfers will win major tournaments around the world."

A place to grow pros

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