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China's building blocks
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In Zhengzhou, among those feeling energized are the winners of the top age group. Hong Wei and Lu Zheng are, in some ways, playing catch up. Lu, who won the Girls Group A – her second win of the year – only picked up golf two years ago. Hong, who has only three years of golf under his belt, finally got his first win in the senior boys' category after more third-place finishes than he cares to remember.

"I feel good!" he says, testing out his English with a laugh. "It's cool, it's exciting to win," he adds in Mandarin. “I've had a lot of third places this year. This time the golf course was relatively difficult, but I was able to stay very stable and very calm and I won!"

"Although I've only played a short time compared to the other players I believe with hard work and hard practice I can catch up with the others. With all these tournaments I've accumulated a lot of experience. I'm confident now that I can win."

Hong has some catching up to do. Several players at his age have gained experience whatever way they can. Kids like Benny Ye Jianfeng have been playing in professional events since the age of 13. Hu Mu, James Su Dong, Han Ren and Wang Minghao headed to North America to get the competition and coaching they needed.

But these are the last generation likely to be scattered to the four winds. It might need another 10 years before China develops the kind of elite-level coaching to rival what is available in the States, but with the tournament and development platform of the HSBC China Junior Golf Program in place, the country has taken a giant step towards nurturing its home grown talent in their own home country.

The author Tim Maitland is a HSBC Golf writer.

(China.org.cn September 25, 2008)

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