For the first time in the history of Chinese golf, two Chinese players will be in the field for a PGA Tour event next month.
The country's top two players-Zhang Lianwei and Liang Wenchong-have both received invitations for The International at Castle Pines Golf Club in Colorado from the 10th to the 13th of August.
"I think this is another great step for China golf, to prove that our players are stepping up, and that we are heading towards the international stage," said Zhang who last appeared in the US in 2004 when he became the first Chinese player to enter the US Masters, made the cut at the FedEx St. Jude Classic, and entered the Memorial.
"I'm very excited to play in the US again, as it's been two years since I last played there.
I think I'm looking at this as a trip to challenge myself. One thing that I'm very pleased with is that, when I played in the US last, I was the only Chinese player, but this time, Liang Wenchong will also be there."
The chance to return to the States represents a continuation of the swansong to Zhang's career: Earlier this year he claimed his first silverware since 2003 when he won the Omega China Tour-Zhuhai Leg, and he has since been victorious in the China Pro-Am, a non-tour event.
His second attempt at the PGA Tour will also include the Buick Open, where Zhang takes advantage of his personal sponsorship deal with the US motor manufacturers to earn a slot at the Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club on 3rd August.
"I am very thankful that my sponsors are very supportive of my career. I won for one of my personal sponsors, Omega, on the Omega China Tour earlier this year, and now I'm hoping to do well at the Buick Open, too."
For Liang, who celebrates his 28th birthday at the beginning of August, playing on the PGA Tour will represent a high-point in his career. Liang, who this year was handed the baton as China's 'best golfer' by Zhang after his victory in the Omega China Tour's Hainan Leg, plays primarily on the Japan Golf Tour where he has had a number of top ten finishes. His best result on the European PGA Tour was fifth at the co-sanctioned 2005 Caltex Masters in Singapore, but he has never teed up on a tour event in Europe.
"It's a great honor for me to be invited to play at The International. It's my first US PGA Tour event, and it's my first step to playing in the US. The tournament is unique and has a great history. The field is very strong, and I think this will be a great learning experience. I think this gives me a very good start in the US."
Credit for creating the historical opportunity for Chinese golf goes to the Editorial Director of the Chinese edition of Golf Digest magazine, David Lee, who suggested the invitations to the organizers of The International.
"When we heard that they were interested, we contacted the tournament directly and they confirmed the invitations," explained a representative from the player's management company IMG.
(omegachinatour.com July 25, 2006)