China didn’t have to buy a major championship, after all. As you may recall a few years ago, the government offered Yani Tseng an absurd amount of money — in the range of $25 million — if the Taiwanese golfer exchanged her passport for a Chinese one. She turned it down.
Shanshan “Jenny” Feng shot a final-round five-under 67 to become the first Chinese player to win an LPGA event and major title.
“I am so excited right now,” Feng said. “I did it! I don’t know how to celebrate. It happened too soon. I’m going to miss my flight tomorrow. I might just go home. Who knows? I want to see my parents. I’m sure they want to see me.”
The 22-year-old Feng, the only player from China on the tour, had the lowest round of the tournament at the right time and finished at 6-under 282.
Feng, who began the day three shots behind third-round leader Eun-Hee Ji, had a bogey-free round to etch her name in the record books, and her fourth top 10 of the year moved her to fifth in the world.
“For me, I never thought, ‘I must win.’ I knew I was three behind (at the start), so I knew I had a chance,” said Feng, who began playing golf at age 10. “I was focusing on very shot. If I win, I win. If I don’t, I don’t. It just worked out.”
What does this mean for golf in China? Well, that’s a great question. All the “experts” have prognosticated a major golf boom in a country with a population of over a billion. I mean, there has to be at least one future Tiger Woods being groomed for success!
In this most recent edition of PGA Tour Confidential, Michael Bamberger said: “Trump once told me that golf will be HUGE in China because the Chinese love to gamble. Faldo once told me that golf will be huge in China because golf suits the Chinese temperament. In the next 50 years, golf in China will become the major force in the game.”
Jack Nicklaus has made similar comments, but I think he believes it’ll come sooner than that.
From what I understand, 50 years is a fair estimate.
My mom has been telling me this golfing boom in China for nearly a decade. Problem is there isn’t an infrastructure in place to produce golfers at a high level. The current system — in regard to forming and maintaining elite academies, and more important, a competitive junior/amateur tournament circuit — is far from where it needs to be, according to a Chinese industry expert I spoke with recently.
However, the game is definitely booming on a recreational level since it’s become a symbol of “class” and “status,” but they have some work to do (more than I expected if I understand) if they’re going to produce a healthy stable of competitive golfers. Nothing wrong with getting more people to pick up the game at any rate.
(AP Photo/Derek Gee)