Passing of Peter Tang: Godfather of China Golf Coaches

Peter Tang has passed away at the age of 71. Picture courtesy Hong Kong Golf Club.

Hong Kong: Peter Tang Shu-chuen, a hugely influential figure in China’s golfing history who conducted one of the sport’s most famous and far-reaching lessons, has passed away at the age of 71.

A former assistant pro at Hong Kong Golf Club (HKGC), a founding member of the Hong Kong Professional Golfers’ Association (HKPGA) and an eight-time participant in the World Cup of Golf, he was the eldest of four Hong Kong golfing brothers, all of whom played professionally.

Of his various claims to fame, two stick out – the role he played in developing the first generation of mainland Chinese golfers and his private coaching of former Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Zhao Ziyang, who became an avid golfer before he was placed under house arrest.

One of the first tasks Tang faced upon becoming club pro at Chung Shan Hot Spring Golf Club when it opened in 1984, was to unearth some local youngsters to be trained to become the country’s first competitive golfers with the specific target of getting them to a level that would enable them to compete in the golf tournament at the 1990 Beijing Asian Games.

Tang duly headed to the local secondary school in Zhongshan where he conducted what must rank as one of the most famous golfing lessons ever given. During a break time, the children were asked to form a circle in the playground. Tang strode into the middle and displayed the motion of the golf swing.

The kids were asked if they knew what he was doing. A variety of answers came back – hockey and casting a fishing line being the two most popular. None had even heard of golf, let along seen anyone ever swing a club.

Undaunted, Tang then proceeded to the next phase of this most remarkable of auditions, requesting the kids to imitate the movements he’d shown them. Based on what he witnessed over the course of the next 20 minutes, Tang altered the life of four boys and four girls by selecting them to enrol at Chung Shan and work under his tutelage.

Within a couple of years, Lam ShiyuLam YinmayWong Lixia and Wong Laiyu were low single figure handicappers who would fly the flag for China at the 1990 Asiad and go on to win a host of women’s amateur tournaments.

Of the boys, it was Zheng Wenjun and Xiao Chenghan who shone brightest, representing club and country in the inaugural China Open Amateur Championship in late 1986, over their home course at Chung Shan.

Zhang Lianwei, who became the first men’s player from China to win tournaments in the pro ranks, was also a student of Tang. So, too, was former China number one Liang Wenchong who described Tang as ‘the godfather of China golf coaches’.

Peter Tang (right) with brother Alex in the early 1990s.

Tang and his brothers – AlexShu-wing and Shu-wah – learned about golf, initially as caddies at the Hong Kong Golf Club. Under the guidance and mentorship of the HKGC’s long-time resident professional Joe Hardwick, Tang graduated to the role of assistant pro in 1969.

He went on to distinguish himself as a player, representing Hong Kong in eight World Cups and placing fifth in the 1976 Hong Kong Open. In 1979, he won the Hong Kong PGA Championship. He served as Captain of the HKPGA from 1997 to 2001.

“The Hong Kong Golf Club is saddened to learn of the passing of Peter Tang, the Club’s former assistant pro who blazed a trail for professional golf in both Hong Kong and mainland China over the course of over three decades,” the Fanling club said in a statement.

“Peter Tang was a golfing pioneer and highly respected by all of us at the Club – his achievements deserve to be remembered,” said Clarence Leung, Captain of HKGC, a Facility Member of the Asian Golf Industry Federation. “His name is synonymous with golf development in the region and it is only right that his legacy lives on.”

To celebrate and remember Tang’s contribution to the HKGC and professional golf in Hong Kong and mainland China, the Club will provide a new accolade – The Hong Kong Golf Club-Peter Tang Memorial Trophy – which alongside a cash prize will go to the annual winner of the HKPGA’s Order of Merit, starting this year.

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