China's rising golf star, Guan Tianlang, drives during the Fangshan-Changyang China Amateur Golf Championship over the weekend in Beijing. China is in great need of more young people to take part in the sport in a bid to make a mark on the world stage. Provided to China Daily
Country needs more children to pick up the game and more high-level competitions to catch up with its stronger neighbors, such as South Korea and Japan, Wu Ying and Chen Xiangfeng write.
The grass is greener on the other side of the fence ... in Chinese golf, at present, that's the case. While neighboring countries like South Korea and Japan have youngsters all over their courses, China still lags behind.
South Korea had 3,000 registered golfers between the ages of 15 and 18 last year, and also boasted more than 6,000 professional women golfers, which dwarfs China's total of fewer than 100.
A major reason for the disparity is the number of golf courses and high-level tournaments the countries provide. Okamura Kin, a leader of the Japan team at last weekend's inaugural Fangshan-Changyang Amateur Golf Championship (CAGC), put it in perspective.
"Golf courses are seen all over Japan. For instance, in Miyazaki, a coast prefecture in southeast Japan, you can come across dozens of golf courses when you drive for just 30 minutes."
Japan has a golf population of more than 10 million. Extensive live broadcasts of professional tournaments are also a reason behind the sport's popularity in that country.
China's golf started in the 1980s, and has made big strides since then, but it still is a fledging sport when compared with its neighbors.
Golf in South Korea also sprung up about 30 years ago. When asked about how the sport there has established its leading position in the world, national coach Kwak Yu-hyun said: "From around 1987, we began to popularize golf in the middle and high schools. Some schools offered courses for golf."
His advice to young Chinese golfers was to compete and practice more.
Chinese Taipei has also got in on the golf act and boasts world No 1 Tseng Yani, who has inspired many of her junior compatriots to swing for a bright future.
In the eyes of Lin Chien-min , the team leader of Chinese Taipei, the emergence of Tseng is, by and large, due to the strength of the team's overall system. Chinese Taipei has more than 10 tournaments for pros and even more for amateurs each year.
"Your tournaments still lack openness," said Lin, who is also a high school golf coach. "More opportunities should be given to golfers from Hong Kong, Macao and Chinese Taipei." said Lin.
China has a long way to go to catch up with its neighbors, but someone sees a rosy future.
"We surely will catch up with the South Koreans and even overtake them because, first, the CGA (China Golf Association) has employed high-level overseas coaches and encouraged the domestic ones, which will benefit the youngsters," said You Jian, a head coach at Haipeng Golf Club in Beijing. "Secondly, many young golfers have supportive families and they will have bright futures," he said.
Higher-lever tournaments like CAGC, are also introduced to provide a new Chinese showcase for amateur golfers. Li Yuan topped the men's leaderboard and qualified for the OneAsia Tour on the Chinese mainland. Ma Andrea Victoria of the Philippines took the women's title and won a ticket to the China Women's Open.