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Tee Time Won't Be Delayed

By Chen Xiangfeng | China Daily | Updated: 2017-09-08 09:52

Plans in place for Team China to contend at 2020 Games

A slow sparrow should make an early start.

China's golf governing body showed it knows the wisdom of that old axiom by assembling the nation's best men's and women's players to launch a state-supported program to prepare for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

"Compared to other powerhouses in golf, China started to develop the sport late and the overall level is much lower. We are also in short of talent," Zhang Xiaoning, who heads the Chinese Golf Association, said this week.

"There are still three years before the 2020 Games, but we have no reason to wait and remain where we are now. The earlier we start our preparations, the better our chances at the Olympics."

Last year in Rio, where golf returned to the Olympics after a 112-year absence, Chinese players, especially the women, took the course by storm. Lin Xiyu, who was 20 at the time, became the first female Olympian to drain a hole-inone, while the nation's No 1, Feng Shanshan, brought home the bronze medal.

Zhang said improvement is apparent after years of development, but China still has long way to go.

"We are far behind our neighbors Japan and Korea, not to mention the US," he said.

"In the women's field, we only have Feng Shanshan in the world top 10, compared to five from South Korea. Our top men's player is Li Haotong, at No 67. The second best is Dou Zecheng at 246.

"We are selecting our best players to form a national team and will invest comprehensively to make sure they are making rapid progress."

Feng, currently No 6 in the world, has been appointed captain of the nine-member women's team that also includes Lin and rising star Lu Wanya. Liang Wenchong, former China No 1 and winner on the European Tour, leads the seven-member men's squad.

Lu was born in Japan and made herself known to Chinese fans after leading Team Shanghai to the gold medal at the ongoing 13th Chinese National Games in Tianjin.

"As an athlete, the moment you walk on the podium, everything starts from the zero," said Feng, the first Chinese to win a major on the LPGA tour.

"I want to tell myself and my teammates, all the glory we have won only proves how good we were - it doesn't guarantee anything in the future.

"As captain, I promise we will stay solid, play as a unit and fight for a better result at the Tokyo Olympics."

With the 39-year-old Liang serving more as mentor, the men's team will rely heavily on Li and Dou, who have both impressed this season.

Li made headlines by registering the best Chinese performance in a men's major after his final round of 63 at the British Open placed him third and earned him a spot at the Masters, while Dou won on the Tour and became the first Chinese to earn a PGA Tour playing card.

"Golf is a highly professionalized and market-oriented sport. We are seeking the best ways to combine these features with our state-run system," said Zhang.

"We will encourage all our players to compete in higher-level competitions by themselves in order to gain as much experience as possible.

"After the program is fully launched, we will invest in introducing the best support team for them. We will also work with the players to make individual plans for each of them.

"We want to make sure that wherever they play, they have support from the sport's governing body and the nation."

Zhang doesn't anticipate any conflicts.

"The state-run program will not collide with players' professional careers," he said.

"We will focus on the support work. We will import the world's best technologies, facilities and teaching ideas to benefit the team's preparation for the Olympics."

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