Teeing up China's next generation
2017-03-23 10:57:00

Junior program is riding wave of success into second decade

Dou Zecheng has journeyed from obscurity to the top of PGA China's money list, but he hasn't forgotten where it all started.

"I became one of the first participants when the CGA-HSBC China Junior Golf Program was initiated in 2007," recalled 20-year-old Dou, who won four PGA China events last year and became the second Chinese to join the US-based Web.com Tour, a launch pad to the PGA Tour.

"During my six years in the program, I played in many important tournaments and developed my game. The program opened the door for me, and helped me to develop my game until I could turn pro in 2014."

Youngsters like Huang Jiezheng (above) and Gong Feiquan (below) enjoy fun and success at the CGA-HSBC China Junior Golf Program, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. Provided to China Daily

Dou is not the only success story the program prides itself on as it celebrates its 10th anniversary.

Former pupil Lin Xiyu now plays on the LPGA Tour and became the first female to sink a hole in one at an Olympic Games when she collected an ace in Rio last August.

Last year, Jin Cheng became the second graduate of the program, after Guan Tianlang, to play at The Masters after qualifying for Augusta by winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship.

And 16-year-old Ji Yifan showed the CJGP is still developing top talent by finishing third at the 2016 British Junior Open.

"There is a rapid development within Chinese junior golf. Homegrown golfers are not only performing in China, but now excelling on the professional stage globally," said David Rollo, vice-president of Golf Events & Clients APAC of IMG.

"IMG values the Chinese market greatly. In addition to representing veteran athletes like Michelle Wie and Feng Shanshan, we continue to sign talented young players such as Lin Xiyu, Dou Zecheng, Shi Yuting, and Liu Yu.

"All four of them are alumni of the China Junior Golf Program that we have proudly managed for more than 10 years."

One of China's most successful golfers, Liang Wenchong, echoed those sentiments: "Since its introduction 10 years ago, the program has played a very important role in promoting golf in China."

The program targets grassroots development, using a variety of initiatives and tournaments: the Junior Golf Winter/Summer Camp, the School Golf Training Program, the China Junior Golf Open and the National Junior Golf Championship.

This year's edition of the latter will feature stops in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong, Henan and Zhejiang.

Players in the top 1,000 of the World Amateur Golf Rankings will be eligible for the Group A competition (no more than four players, selected based on WAGR ranking).

The program aims to identify talent from various national events. The more elite youngsters that play against each other, the competition becomes more intense and the learning curve steeper.

The best players will once again have the opportunity to train at the world-renowned IMG Academy in the US, as well as the chance to compete with world-class players in the elite WGC-HSBC Champions event.

Giles Morgan, global head of sponsorship and events for HSBC, said: "Over the past decade we have brought golf to the communities in which we serve, and put golf clubs in the hands of over 80,000 children.

"Apart from introducing golf to Chinese children, the China Junior Golf Program also provides young elite golfers with a platform to develop their game and compete internationally.

"In the future, we look forward to introducing even more Chinese children to the great game of golf and perhaps witnessing one of these juniors winning The Masters or an Olympic medal."

Source:China Daily Editor:Rose