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Spotlight shifting to young swingers

By Xu Jingxi | China Daily | Updated: 2017-03-28 06:59

More certified training centers will be launched

Being able to drive the green on a par-3 is not unusual for a 14-year-old girl accustomed to a daily training regimen that includes 1,000 practice swings.

It's an impressive feat - but as China vigorously expands its golf talent pool, the nation's sports authority is closely monitoring how much "adult" training is imposed on youngsters in an effort to avoid harmful side effects.

"Youth golf training should be all-round. It is not only about swinging and putting, but also building physical and mental strength," said Jin Hongwen, director of the golf department at the Multi-Balls Sports Administrative Center of the State General Administration of Sports.

"It is even more than golf. Kids and teenagers should be encouraged to also take up other sports to improve the energy and agility that can benefit their golf game. More importantly, in this way youngsters will truly feel the joy of playing sports."

The success of Chinese golfers like 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Feng Shanshan has fueled public enthusiasm for the game.

Dreaming of becoming the nation's next star, more than 14,000 teenagers have registered with the China Golf Association's junior ranking system - a huge increase from just several hundred in 2015.

More than 140 competitions for teenage golfers were held across the country last year, said Jin, who is also the China Golf Association's deputy secretary-general.

To make the game accessible to more youngsters, the CGA has accredited 113 courses and driving ranges as youth training centers, providing no less than 400 hours of annual practice free of charge to CGA-registered teenagers.

Free coaching is also provided.

The training centers benefited more than 4,000 golfers last year, and that number will keep growing as the association certifies 300 such facilities by 2020.

"We will train the coaches at these youth centers, since they have mostly been focused on training adults," Jin said.

Amateurs who excel in tournaments for teens and receive recommendations from their club will be placed in the national team's winter training program, where problems caused by adult training methods can be identified and corrected.

"Coaching holds the key to cultivating our golf stars. China must cultivate its own coaches if it wants to become a golf power. For example, most South Korean golfers are trained by local coaches when they are young amateurs," said Jin.

"Chinese fans waited years for the rise of a homegrown star like Feng Shanshan, but it won't take that long to embrace the next generation as we have been developing a talent training system from the State level over the past 10 years."

The national team has three levels - youth, amateur and pro - providing a career ladder for talent to grow.

"China's overall golf strength will grow quickly as our talent pool keeps expanding. It is just a matter of time before we can equal and then surpass South Korea and Japan."

Golf is an official event at the Asian Games and returned to the Olympics last year in Rio de Janeiro for the first time since 1904.


 Spotlight shifting to young swingers

Australia's Stacey Peters demonstrates iron shots for a group of youngsters during a break from the World Ladies Championship on March 18. The China LPGA Tour stages training sessions to introduce young people to golf while showcasing the skills of world-class players. Provided To China Daily

(China Daily 03/28/2017 page23)

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