Beijing, China: Li Haotong’s Volvo China Open victory marked the first European Tour title for a CGA-HSBC China Junior Golf Programme graduate … and adds further momentum behind Asia as a growing force in the game.
HSBC, which places such importance on its global grass-roots junior programmes which underpin all the company’s flagship events, described Li’s win as ‘a gratifying and timely milestone’.
The financial institution has supported junior golf in China for over nine years and recently renewed its partnership with the China Golf Association, ensuring the future of the programme through to 2020.
For Li, victory represents a career breakthrough win. His best performances previously saw him lose out in a play-off at the Shenzhen International last year and finish tied seventh at the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai in November.
Giles Morgan, Global Head of Sponsorship and Events at HSBC, said: “Li Haotong’s win clearly demonstrates just how far golf in China has come over the last decade and what an exciting future the game has. It’s an incredible story of human ambition and shows exactly why HSBC supports golf and why our junior programmes are so important to our sponsorships around the world. A win for any golfer in their home nation is inspiring but for this to happen in China for a 20-year-old is really special.
“For HSBC, he is proudly one of our own. Haotong was first inspired into the game as a youngster by attending our tournament, HSBC Champions in Sheshan and now he has the potential to inspire a new generation. He graduated through the ranks of the CGA-HSBC Junior Golf Programme, a development programme we started nine years ago with the ambition of supporting future champions.
“Today we have realised that ambition. We saw glimpses of his potential at WGC-HSBC Champions last year and now he’s advanced into the winner’s circle and we’re delighted for him. For Li and golf in China this is only the start. The CGA-HSBC Junior Golf Programme offers a proven pathway to the very top of the game and I’ve no doubt with this victory many more will be inspired to make that journey.”
The joint initiative – which is the only officially sanctioned junior golf programme in China – has earned a reputation as a veritable production line for the brightest young talent in China.
Last month saw another of its graduates, 18-year-old Cheng Jin, play in the Masters following in the footsteps of fellow CGA-HSBC China Junior Golf Programme graduate Guan Tianlang who, at the age of 14, took the golfing world by storm in 2013 when he became the youngest golfer to make the cut at a Major at the Masters.
The CGA-HSBC Junior Golf Programme was launched by the CGA and HSBC in 2007 and over the past decade the programme has put golf clubs in the hands of more than 80,000 children and provided a platform for young, elite talent.
Key features of the programme include the HSBC National Junior Championship, the HSBC China Junior Open, the HSBC Junior Winter/Summer Camp and the HSBC School Golf Training Programme.
Supervised by a development committee that has representatives from HSBC, the CGA, IMG and The R&A, it has been a driving force behind the dramatic growth of golf in China.
In addition Cheng Jin and Guan Tianlang, other notable graduates include Ye Wo-cheng who became the youngest player in European Tour history when he lined up at the 2013 Volvo China Open and Andy Zhang, who qualified for the US Open at the age of 14.
Other success stories of the programme include Lin Xiyu, one of the first ever participants and now a seed on the LPGA Tour hoping to represent China at Rio 2016, and Dou Zecheng who is now on the men’s pro circuit.