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Programs to create sporting superstars of future

By Wang Zhenghua (China Daily)

09:29, June 13, 2013

Pupils of Shijia Primary School learn to grip their clubs on June 4 at a golf training center in Beijing. The school recently added the sport as an extra curricular activity for students. (ZHOU LIANG / XINHUA)

China may soon have its own superstars capable of matching the likes of Tiger Woods on the golf circuit or Roger Federer on a tennis court, with the launch of two programs aimed at providing the best training for top Chinese talent in the two sports.

Future golfing superstars are set to be nurtured after China Golf Association and HSBC renewed their support for the grassroots development of the sport in China through a series of events, tournaments, and training programs.

While in tennis, the youth training center of Shanghai Sports Bureau has teamed up with a top tennis club in Pudong New Area to select 10 male and six female youngsters between 8 and 10 years old, to train overseas, including in Australia.

Since its inception in 2007, the HSBC-backed program has been the only official junior golf development project sanctioned by the association, and has become a platform for budding young golf talent.

A handful of "made-in-China" golf prodigies have already gained international recognition as a result.

Among them are 12-year-old Ye Wocheng, the youngest to take part in the European PGA Tour event, 17-year-old Liu Yu, who recently won her second professional championship, and 24-year-old Feng Shanshan, the first female golfer to claim the Chinese National Championship.

The association and Europe's largest bank renewed their support for another three years earlier this month in Shanghai.

Officials say the program is an important step in the sustainable long-term development of junior golf in China which will see the introduction of further tournaments, training and promotional activities.

"The long-term objective is to nurture a team of young golfers into professional stars, who can represent China, for instance, at the Olympics," said Zhang Xiaoning, director of the Small Ball Sports Administrative Center of General Administration of Sport.

"From an outreach perspective, we also hope that more young people will be able to experience golf and fall in love with this great sport," he added.

Guan Tianlang, 14, who recently became the youngest ever participant in The Masters, said such programs provide a platform for young players like him to learn from top players.

"Since the start of the program in 2007, I have participated in many tournaments and had the honor and privilege of playing a hole with Tiger Woods at the 2010 WGC-HSBC Champions Pro-Am tournament," he said.

"I love golf, and I hope that more people of my age can take part in and find passion in this wonderful game," he added.

However, Li Dazheng, deputy director of the Multi Ball Games Administrative Center, also cautioned that major sporting achievements at a young age can serve as a "double-edge sword" for the future development of the young players.

"One reason why young Chinese golfers can achieve great things is that they don't need to support their family and can focus on their sport," he said.

But these honors can be a burden in later life, if dedication to sport is only at the expense of their lives at home, he added.

He said that the program, which will feature winter and summer golf camps, will help shape their personalities, rather than simply training them to become soulless, robotic players.

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