China climbing up global leaderboard
Last Updated: 2019-11-06 09:10 | China Daily Global
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The nation's finest female golfers, Feng Shanshan and Liu Yu, graced the WGC-HSBC Champions tournament over the weekend, cheering on their male counterparts and sharing their thoughts on the game's development in China.

And while the pair witnessed first-round leader Li Haotong's title bid unravel at Sheshan International on Saturday, Feng and Liu are certain that a conveyor belt of new Chinese talent will soon be joining Li in challenging the world's elite for the sport's top honors.

"The growth of the golfing scene has just been astounding. When I started playing golf years ago, it was hard to imagine that so many kids today would get the chance to play the sport," said world No 34 Liu, who finished in a tie for third at this month's LPGA tournament in Shanghai.

"I think companies like HSBC have played a key role in promoting the development of the sport and me realizing my dream of becoming a professional golfer.

"In fact, the hype surrounding a major golf event like the HSBC Champions was one of the key factors why I started playing the sport seriously."

Feng pointed to the number of kids watching the action at Sheshan over the weekend as further evidence that the future's bright for the Chinese game.

"Today, there are many families bringing their kids to such competitions. In the past, all you saw were middle-aged people," said world No 21 Feng.

"You'll also see many children at the ranges today. This is proof that the development of golf in China is on the right track. I'm also very happy to see the pool of Chinese talent that has emerged in recent years.

"In the past, it was hard to read about golfing news in the media except for golfing magazines and related online platforms. But because the HSBC Champions is such a major event, the media coverage has been extensive and this has resulted in more people getting to understand the golfing scene in China and seeing how there are so many talented players."

Feng believes a shift in coaching techniques is producing a superior class of Chinese players, recalling how in her youth she was mistakenly taught to strike the ball straight before learning how to hit hard and far.

"Science has since proven that aspects such as swing speed and power are best learned when golfers are young. Proper form is something that can be honed later," Feng explained.

"The younger golfers also have a good short game because of today's training methods which are used internationally. This shows how far we have come in terms of training development.

"I believe that the younger players can only become better than what I am today. This is why I'm very optimistic about the development of golfing talent in China."

Feng conceded that the fast-growing pool of young power hitters has piled the pressure on her, but she has no intention of retiring just yet, citing one of the game's all-time greats as reason to battle on.

"Tiger Woods has been an inspiration for me because, as a female golfer who is 30 this year, I'm already considered quite old, and this is made more obvious by the fact that so many young and talented players are entering the field every year," she said.

"Tiger making a comeback over the past couple of years has been quite a sensation and it has really driven me to challenge myself further. I think I still have room to improve my game."

Feng is also looking to improve on the Olympic bronze medal she won at Rio 2016 when the Games are staged in Tokyo next year.

The 30-year-old plans to approach Tokyo 2020 differently than her Brazilian trip when she was "too serious".

"In Rio, I was solely focused on doing my best. This time around, I want to explore the Olympic village, be a spectator at other sporting competitions, make friends with fellow athletes and just enjoy the process," she added.

For Liu, who will turn 24 this month, competing in her first Olympics would fulfill a long-held dream.

"I remember watching the 2000 Sydney Olympics and thinking how cool it would be to represent one's country in a sport. It was from that moment that I had the dream to play at the Olympics. You could say that it is quite serendipitous how I ended up playing golf and how the sport was reinstated in 2016," said Liu.

Her quest to qualify for Tokyo will be inspired by Feng, the only Chinese golfer, male or female, to top the sport's world rankings.

"Seeing Shanshan win a medal in 2016 was very inspiring," she said. "I was just browsing the LPGA records the other day and I discovered that she is ranked among the top 15 in the world for career earnings. That is quite a feat to achieve.

"Shanshan is a paragon for Chinese female golfers to emulate. Not everyone gets to become world No 1, but she was there. She did it."



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