Shenzhen, China: Sir Nick Faldo has predicted it’s just a matter of time before Chinese male golfers become a force in the professional game.
Speaking in the wake of a spectacular performance by rising teenage star Cao Sen at last week’s ninth Faldo Series Asia Grand Final, Faldo said he was encouraged by the progress of mainland players.
At Mission Hills Shenzhen, Cao stunned his rivals by firing an accomplished closing four-under-par 68 to claim an unlikely victory in the Boys’ Under-16 category. He also was awarded the Mission Hills Trophy as the leading mainland player overall.
Cao, who hails from Dongguan and will turn 17 in July, was five shots off the pace in fourth place heading into the final round over the Faldo Course at Mission Hills.
Defying expectations, he soared to the top of the leaderboard with an assured display that included five birdies and a solitary bogey.
“It was a wonderful performance from Cao and underlines the fact that China is now producing a greater number of players who have the talent and potential to make a mark in the game,” said six-time Major champion Faldo, Britain’s most successful golfer.
Pointing out also that Liu Yan was runner-up in the Girls’ Under-16 segment, losing out only on countback, Faldo said the signs are good for China’s elite young golfers.
However, success at the highest level of the professional game will not happen overnight, he cautioned – particularly among the men.
While China has four players in the top-200 of the women’s world rankings, including world number four and Major winner Feng Shanshan, it currently has no-one in the men’s top-200. But Faldo can spot the remedy.
“They need to come and attack the big Tours in numbers because, at the moment, it’s a little thin,” he said. “China needs to have at least half a dozen really good young golfers working their way up, winning in China, then winning in Asia and Europe to get to the PGA Tour.
“That’s all going to take time. And at the same time, the rest of the world is moving on as well. There’s a lot of competition out there. You see how Japan has struggled to hit the American Tour in numbers. It’s almost like they come one at a time. So that has to be the Chinese players’ goal. If they want to set the world on fire, they need to inspire each other.”
Asked how soon the golf world could expect to see a Chinese man in the world’s top-10, Faldo responded: “I would say it will arrive within the next 10 years or so, but you can’t see it happening immediately. They have to climb the ladder and it’s a tough ladder right now because international golfers are very strong.”
Faldo was full of praise for Mission Hills’ commitment to junior golf and the prominent role the club has played in his Faldo Series Asia.
“This was the ninth Faldo Series Asia Grand Final we have held here, which is great. Mission Hills has been a big part of the series, the kids love it, the facilities are great and they get a chance to play my course for three days, so it’s all good.
“We’ve all got to do our bit for junior golf, that’s where your future members come from. Mission Hills has obviously been striving hard across China to give kids the opportunity to play and it’s good thinking on the club’s part when they have so many golf courses to fill in the future.”
Mission Hills Group Vice Chairman Tenniel Chu accompanied Faldo at the post-tournament prize-giving and hailed the legend’s presence at Mission Hills as a huge boost for junior golf in China and the region.
“We are always honoured to host this prestigious tournament and to have Sir Nick with us again,” said Chu. “With Sir Nick as their role model and inspiration, the players competing at Mission Hills [in the Faldo Series Asia Grand Final] are in good hands as they seek success in the game.”
Supported by The R&A and Mission Hills and endorsed by the Asian Tour and the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation, the 2014-15 Faldo Series Asia campaign stretched over 11 months and was made up of 19 championships.