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Jimenez says Chinese teen a publicity stunt

By Agence France-Presse in Crans-Montana, Switzerland | China Daily | Updated: 2013-09-07 08:14

Former Ryder Cup winner Miguel Angel Jimenez has questioned the appearance of a 13-year old Chinese amateur in this week's Omega European Masters field at Crans Montana, Switzerland.

Ye Wocheng made history earlier this year when he became the youngest player, at 12 years and 242 days, to compete in a European Tour event when he qualified for the Volvo China Open.

Now Ye, who is a product of a youth program launched six years ago by the China Golf Association with the backing of HSBC, became the youngest ever to play on European soil.

In April, 14-year-old countryman Guan Tianlang became the youngest to compete at the Masters, and despite being penalized a stroke for slow play, he still managed to finish as the leading amateur.

Late last year Jimenez secured the honor of becoming the oldest winner of a European Tour event at 48 years and 318 days when he captured the Hong Kong Open. But he is at odds with tournament sponsor Omega for bringing Ye to the Swiss Alps to compete.

"It is nice to see that golf is interesting no matter what the age, but for me, a 13-year-old competing against professionals is a little a bit too young," said the Spaniard.

"People want to start to do things too early and a 13-year-old should be playing alongside other 13-year-olds and not players averaging 33 years of age.

"No doubt the sponsor wants publicity for the tournament, but then it seems you have to go looking for under- age players to promote yourself.

"I'm sorry, but this should not be allowed."

Jimenez said it wasn't good for a young player's development to compete against professionals.

"They should not be pushing kids his age too hard as it could have a disastrous effect on their careers," Jimenez said.

"I hope he enjoys himself this week, but then I saw him hitting practice balls this morning he looked very nervous, and he should not be in that position."

Fellow former European Masters winner Mathias Gronberg disagrees with Jimenez.

Swede Gronberg, who is 30 years older than Ye, with whom he was partnered, can see the promotional worth of having the teenager in the field.

"It's going to be awesome playing with the young fellow and I will look forward to it," Gronberg said.

"It is where the game is at, and as golfers we are in the entertainment business. This is good for bringing out the crowds.

"I am sure there will be hundreds of thousands Chinese people that will tune into the golf on TV this week just to watch and follow Ye here in Switzerland.

"So it would be silly not to market that opportunity and I am sure the Masters officials were pleased and happy when that 14-year-old, also from China, did so well to make the cut and then finish as the leading amateur."

(China Daily 09/07/2013 page15)

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