Golf in China Growing Fast

Brook Larmer at The New York Times looks into the increasing zeal for golf in Mainland China:

The People’s Republic might seem an unlikely incubator for golf prodigies. Chairman Mao, after all, banned the game in 1949 as so much bourgeois frippery and had the handful of golf courses that predated the Communist revolution plowed under. The taboo lasted 35 years. China’s first golf course built since then is not yet three decades old — younger than Tiger Woods. Even today, the state ostensibly outlaws the construction of new courses in mainland China, lest they gobble up too much scarce land and water — an edict that, though flouted in places, still limits the growth of the game. Then there’s the paucity of role models: though the country churns out Olympic champions in sports from diving to table tennis, China has just four professional golfers — two men, two women — ranked in the world’s top 300.

And yet Chinese wunderkinds are now beginning to infiltrate some of the highest levels of golf. First came 14-year-old Andy Zhang, who played in last year’s U.S. Open. Then, in April, Guan Tianlang, also 14, dazzled at the Masters. The boy in popsicle-colored pants — the youngest ever to tee off at the tournament — made the cut despite a rare slow-play penalty that angered his new fans (the rapper Lil Wayne tweeted: “Shame on the Masters”). With disarming maturity, the eighth-grader never scored worse than a bogey in four rounds and became the toast of the tournament. Gary Player said: “Mark my words: we are witnessing the most historic moment golf has experienced in my lifetime.”

[…] Obsessive parenting exists everywhere, of course. But in China, the sudden explosion of wealth and the preponderance of only children (because of the restrictive one-child policy still prevalent in many parts of the country) intensifies the anxiety of parents willing to go to almost any extreme to turn their child into the next Tiger Woods. Many foreign pros worry that children who are pushed to train so hard will burn out long before they reach their prime. Yet the tantalizing sight of a Chinese boy at the Masters has compelled some parents to push even harder. “Guan has inspired a lot of people,” says a foreign pro in Beijing. “But I now have parents of 13-year-olds asking me, ‘Does my son have the ability to play in the Masters?’ With that kind of attitude, you either quit or double down.” [Source]

See more on golf in China via CDT.


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