Shanghai, China: As the WGC-HSBC Champions celebrates 15 years of world-class golf, tournament title partner HSBC has brought together some of the game’s biggest stars alongside some of its brightest talents for a demonstration of just how far the sport has come in China.
Every year, WGC-HSBC Champions has one of the strongest fields outside the Major championships. This year’s tournament continues that trend. With such a strong field, HSBC called on some of the biggest names in golf to deliver a unique experience for some talented Chinese golfers.
Defending champion Xander Schauffele joined world number two Rory McIlroy, former champion and world number seven Justin Rose, European Ryder Cup linchpin Ian Poulter and local hero Li Haotong to surprise some of China’s most promising young players – stars of the CGA-HSBC China Junior Golf Programme – at the driving range at WGC-HSBC Champions.
The ‘best golf lessons ever’ were given to five youngsters, selected from throughout China, as a memorable reward for showing outstanding progress and brilliant performances during the 2019 season of the junior programme.
Youngest of all, Xu Zilin, already a proven winner at the age of nine, left her coach for the day Poulter speechless by her remarkable display. Beijing-based Chang Xihuan, an 11-year old number one ranked youth and nine-time winner of HSBC Junior Championship events made fellow countryman Li Haotong immensely proud. Meanwhile Ni Zixin, a 12-year from Hubei, showed coach McIlroy impressive ball-striking skills.
Not to be outdone by their young counterparts, 15-year-old Tong Yang from Guangdong inspired Schauffele in their one-on-one session, while 18-year-old Sun Jiaze, also of Guangdong, showed Rose why she might have an Olympic gold medal of her own one day.
The players passed on advice and witnessed at first-hand the raw talent now emerging in China golf. The range clinic served as the ideal warm-up for later in the week, when the global stars tackle the par-five 18th hole at Sheshan International Golf Club with the talented youngsters playing alongside.
In a final surprise, the elite golfers invited the kids to join them as VIPs on the red carpet at the WGC-HSBC Champions welcome dinner (pictured left).
The CGA-HSBC China Junior Golf Programme was created in 2007 as a sustainable long-term structure and framework for the future of Chinese golf. The programme is the only officially sanctioned junior golf programme in China.
In 2006 there were only 406 registered junior golfers in China. In 2019, the figure stands at over 60,000 registered junior golfers with overall junior participation estimated at around 700,000. Over the past 12 years, the CGA-HSBC China Junior Golf Programme has put golf clubs in the hands of well over 100,000 children through junior golf tournaments, golf training camps and school initiatives, helping to guide the elite and inspire a thriving new community of players.
Already a number of the juniors that were introduced to the game through these HSBC programmes have gone on to forge successful careers in the game and will compete in this week’s WGC-HSBC Champions. Li Haotong, tied seventh in 2010, and Dou Zecheng, four-time winner on the PGA Tour China, will both be playing. Five of the seven Chinese players in the field developed their games as members of the CGA-HSBC China Junior Golf Programme.
Li Haotong, former graduate of the CGA-HSBC China Junior Golf Programme, said: “When the first WGC-Champions took place in 2005 I was nine years old. In that time, it has been incredible to be part of a huge rise in interest in golf in China. I am extremely proud to see the growth of the game I love and to see so many kids coming through. It was a privilege to connect with some of the future stars of Chinese golf and hopefully help set them off on their own golfing journeys.”
McIlroy, who has finished in the top-five on three previous occasions, said: “Whenever you play WGC-HSBC Champions you feel like the eyes of the entire country are on you. It’s great to compete in front of this growing and energetic audience of golf fans who are extremely knowledgeable and committed to the game. All the work that has been done to support golf in the country is certainly paying off, both in the growth of the fanbase and the talented young golfers we met here.”
Schauffele, an American whose Chinese-speaking mother witnessed his victory in Shanghai last year, said: “WGC-HSBC Champions will always hold a special place in my heart having won last year in front of my family. It’s great to be back and to be able to meet some of these young Chinese stars. Thanks to the work done to encourage the game here in China there is now a really strong pool of talented players across the country and I’m sure that some of the kids I met here will be winning global tournaments before we know it.”
Jonathan Castleman, HSBC’s Global Head of Brand Partnerships, said: “The WGC-HSBC Champions is a truly unique tournament that brings the eyes of all of China, as well as the wider sporting world, on to Chinese golf. We have long been committed to supporting golf in China, believing strongly in the values and relationship-building benefits the sport can bring to individuals and businesses.
“The CGA-HSBC China Junior Golf Programme in particular is the source of great pride for us as a business. We are delighted to continue to support the next generation of talent in China and look forward to experiencing another great showcase of the growth of Chinese golf this week.”