Tour's top talent descends on Yunnan

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, April 11, 2018
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Li Haotong.

Now that Li Haotong has opened the door by becoming China's first male golfer to crack the world's top 50 rankings, a new wave of homegrown talent is looking to follow suit.

The quest begins on Thursday, when the Belt & Road Colorful Yunnan Open tees off at Yunnan Yulongwan Golf Club in Kunming, Yunnan province. The third tournament of this year's China Tour will have an international field of 126, with $350,000 in prize money up for grabs.

Most importantly, the winner will earn a ticket to the European Challenge Tour.

With the highest prize money of this season and the opportunity to advance to bigger stages, the tournament is targeted by many domestic players.

Hong Kong's Shun Yat Hak, 24, who ranks No 7 on the tour's Belt and Road Honor Ranking, said he's up for the challenge.

"I started to prepare for the China Tour from the start of this year and the course for the Yunnan Open is not that special," he said.

"I'm familiar with the course and I know where to get more points. I hope to have a good performance."

American Charlie Saxon won the first two tournaments on this year's China Tour, while Jin Daxing, who finished seventh in the Shenzhou Peninsula Classic, has the best performance of a Chinese player so far.

In a bid to get involved in the nation's Belt and Road Initiative, the China Tour is cooperating with other international tournament organizations, including the European Challenge Tour and the Asian Tour to provide a bridge for foreign players to visit China.

"Chinese players will have more opportunities to play in advanced international competition through our tour. Also, more foreign players will come to China," said Jonathan Ouyang, the China Tour's regular-season chief of operations.

"The tour is also a promotion of Chinese culture to the world. Many of our foreign players, who represent more than 30 countries and regions, have started to learn to speak Chinese."

Yunnan Sports Bureau, co-organizer of this week's tournament, has made golf a part of the province's Belt and Road sports industry development strategy, along with other sports like cycling and soccer.

According to the bureau, golf's popularity has shown dramatic growth in the province over the past decade, with more high-level tournaments scheduled. Moreover, this year's Yunnan Open, one of the most prestigious sports events held in the province, is considered a shining showcase.

"As the highest level sports tournament held in Yunnan in recent years, the Yunnan Open, which is a name card of our province, has attracted both domestic and international attention," said Chang Lin, deputy director of Yunnan Sports Bureau.

"As the organizer, we look forward to the brand new Yunnan Open that will take Chinese golf to the next level."

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