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Is greatness on the horizon?

Updated: 2012-10-04 07:42
By Tang Zhe ( China Daily)

Wait just a little longer.

Chinese golfers will be competitive by the time the 2020 Olympics roll around, Huang Fei, the coach of the women's national team, predicted at the China Amateur Golf Championship in Beijing.

Golf's inclusion in the Rio Olympics has considerably raised the sport's status in China. To prepare for the Games, the Chinese golf national team was set up at the end of May. The national lineup now has 10 golfers for each gender, with five female professionals and nine male professionals.

The world's top 15 players will automatically earn Olympic berths for the 72-hole events to be fielded with 60 golfers on both the men's and women's side.

Is greatness on the horizon?

The remaining 45 spots will go the highest-ranked players from countries that do not already have two golfers qualified. Women's golf seems more promising at the moment, especially after Feng Shanshan became the first golfer from the Chinese mainland to win a major title by capturing the LPGA Championship in June.

"The administrative center clearly declared our target is the Rio Olympics when the national team was set up, and the focus of this year is to send our players to overseas tournaments to get more Olympic points," Huang said. "It's the same for the men's team."

Still, the emphasis is on 2020.

That's when China's younger generation, which began playing at an earlier age and with better training conditions, will hit the links.

"We not only have the 2016 Olympics, but also the 2020 Games, so we must begin to develop the amateurs as our reserve forces," Huang said.

"I believe Chinese golfers will get more chances to compete in the Olympics and achieve good results at the 2020 Olympics and after.

"Golf in China only has a history of a little more than 20 years. For those competing in international tournaments, Ye Liying is getting old, Feng is in her prime. And I believe the growing generation will be a more precise reflection of the real ability of Chinese golf.

"Wang Xinying, 13, Cai Danting, 14, Shi Yuting, 13, Zhang Weiwei, 15 - they are the best junior amateur golfers in China and have a lot potential. They have improved considerably in technique and mental stability through systematic training with the national team."

Shi said she has had many more opportunities to play in high-caliber tournaments since joining the national team, and her striking distance has improved 20 yards to 230 this year.

The national team had five players competing in the China Amateur Golf Championship held in Changyang in Beijing's Fangshan district in mid-September. Shi won the women's trophy, while Dou Zecheng claimed the men's.

"Compared with other domestic amateur tours, the China Amateur Golf Championship also brings foreign golfers to the course, such as those from Australia, South Korea and Japan, which provides more chances for local players to compete and communicate with their foreign peers," Huang said. "The tournament is a precious chance for our young players to practice, and that's why we bring almost all of the national team's amateur golfers here."