Dongguan, China: Two Chinese golfers have been invited by Mission Hills China to join its new scholarship programme. With funding from The R&A, Jack Tong and Apple Zhang will receive year-round support towards their training and tournaments at the world’s largest golf facility in southern China.
A member of the Guangdong men’s team, Tong was born in Beijing but lives and goes to school in Shenzhen. The 15-year-old won the Faldo Series Shenzhen Championship at Mission Hills last month, beating his much-heralded compatriot, Kuang Yang.
Born and raised in Shenzhen, 12-year-old Zhang qualified to represent China in the US Kids World Championship in America when aged just eight.
The talented duo will train at the recently-opened PGA of America Golf Academy at Mission Hills in Dongguan under the guidance of Kevin Smeltz, a member of Golf Magazine’s Top 100 Teachers for the past eight years. Tong and Zhang will also play a full schedule of tournaments on the Mission Hills Junior Golf Programme sponsored by EFG Bank, including the monthly Mission Hills Junior Series.
Tenniel Chu, Mission Hills Group Vice-Chairman, said: “Since my late father founded Mission Hills 25 years ago, my family has been fully committed to growing golf in China. We have invested millions of dollars into youth development and more than 100,000 competitive rounds have been played by junior golfers at Mission Hills.
“This announcement is another exciting chapter in our long relationship with The R&A, dating back to when Mission Hills hosted the first Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in 2009. The R&A’s commitment to growing the game in China has been unwavering throughout.”
Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, said: “This Golf Scholarship Programme is an important step forward in supporting young people in China, in both golf and personal development. The outcomes of initiatives like this underpin The R&A’s purpose which is to ensure golf is thriving 50 years from now.”
Patrick Quernemoen, COO of PGA Youth Development, said: “We are proud to be a part of this initiative to develop strong athletes and grow champions in China. We couldn’t find two better student-athletes than we have and we look forward to helping them achieve their dreams.”
Smeltz, Director of Golf at PGA Youth Development, added: “I’m very excited about this opportunity to coach Jack and Apple and help in their development – not only in their golf but also watching them grow as people and watch them mentor the younger generation of golfers here at our Academy. To find two student-athletes that not only excel at golf but academics is a recipe for success in my experience. To have an opportunity to watch them develop will be an honour.”
Underwritten by Mission Hills and with funding from The R&A, the Golf Scholarship Programme at Mission Hills will aim to support up to 100 talented Chinese golfers aged 18 and under, boys and girls, in the coming years.
The programme will also be expanded to support students in other sports, including basketball and football in conjunction with FC Barcelona and the NBA, both of whom announced strategic partnerships with Mission Hills in 2017.