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Was June the start of a new era for Chinese golf?

By Chen Xiangfeng (China Daily) Updated: 2012-07-13 07:40

Was June the start of a new era for Chinese golf?

Feng and Zhang both made big breakthroughs in major events

It was a fun month for China's golf chief, Zhang Xiaoning.

Feng Shanshan, 22, became the first LPGA major winner from the Chinese mainland, and Andy Zhang, 14, made history as the youngest US Open competitor.

"I'm so pleased and honored to see their breakthroughs on the big international stage," said the Chinese Golf Association boss during the launch of the Fangshan Changyang China Amateur Golf Championship, which will be held from Sept 11-16 at the Beijing California County Golf Club.

"We are in great need of super golfing stars to inspire and push the sport forward. I hope those young guns keep working hard and establish their star status in the near future."

Zhang still remembers when he sent a thin, inexperienced Feng to play at the Doha Asian Games in 2006.

"She was thin and small," he said. "She was not as mature as she is now. I have seen her grow step-by-step over the past few years. Her success means as long as we are working in the right direction, we can produce some of the world's top golfers."

Unlike China's traditional state-supported system, those two overseas-based players are supported by their families and agents, but are also gaining more professional experience than those who are members of the national program.

Zhang, who is in charge of national teams and their preparations for the 2016 Olympic Games, welcomes the individual efforts to succeed, saying China needs different ways to produce the best golfers.

"It's great that we can see more and more parents supporting their kids and sending them abroad to train and compete," he said. "It's great experience and a good way to develop them in a highly professional situation.

"Meanwhile, we also need the national teams to support those who have talent but whose families cannot afford to develop them individually."

Zhang said the annual investment in a single player, including board, training and competitions, cost about 1 million yuan ($157,000), which is a huge sum for most families in China.

"Now golf is an Olympic sport and we need to put the players in the state-supported system," he said. "That means the government will provide financial support to those who are playing on the national teams."

(China Daily 07/13/2012 page23)

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