Dongguan, China: Sir Nick Faldo has repeated his assertion that China is edging ever-closer to becoming a significant force in the global game.
Ahead of this week’s Faldo Series China Championship at Mission Hills Golf Club, the six-time Major champion predicted the world’s most populous country will soon be producing players capable of challenging for golf’s biggest prizes.
Faldo, Britain’s most successful golfer, said: “When we launched the Faldo Series Asia 10 years ago, I said that it would be towards the end of this decade that we’d start to see mainland Chinese players making their mark on the world’s top Tours.
“Simply based on how China youngsters have fared in the Faldo Series, improving their performances year-by-year, I still think it’s realistic to suppose that by 2020 we’ll have witnessed the first Chinese to win on the PGA Tour in America.
“Within five years of that, I’d expect to see the first Chinese male Major champion. It’s quite possible that this person is in the field for this week’s tournament at Mission Hills, which showcases many of the country’s most promising golfing prospects.”
One of those already being widely touted as a star of the future is scratch-handicapper Ye Wocheng.
“Clearly, Ye is a young man of exceptional potential,” said Faldo, referring to the 15-year-old who created history in 2013 when he qualified for the Volvo China Open, becoming the youngest player in a European Tour event.
Last year, Ye posted a commanding seven-stroke victory in the Faldo Series China Championship and he is hoping to have cleared his school work in order to defend his title in the 54-hole event that tees-off on Wednesday.
Others to keep an eye on include Cao Sen, who claimed victory in the Boys’ Under-16 category at the ninth Faldo Series Asia Grand Final in March and was also awarded the Mission Hills Trophy as the leading mainland player overall.
Among the highly-rated overseas entrants are Australian Harrison Whykes, Chinese Taipei’s Shih Chin-yu and the Hong Kong trio of Lucas Lam, Michael Leung and Mimi Ho, one of the favourites in the girls’ division.
There will be a total of four age group divisions, two for boys and two for girls. Winners of age-group categories at each of the national championships will earn themselves places in the 10th Faldo Series Asia Grand Final, to be hosted by Sir Nick at Mission Hills China next March.
Results from the Faldo Series China Championship, the fourth leg of the 2015-16 Faldo Series Asia season, will be entered into the World Amateur Golf Ranking system and the China Golf Association Junior Ranking system.
Supported by The R&A and Mission Hills and endorsed by the Asian Tour and the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation, the 2015-16 Faldo Series Asia campaign stretches over 11 months and will include a minimum of 21 events in 17 countries including, for the first time, Australia.