2010 Valero Texas Open winner Adam Scott had been beaten by a girl before, just not by a 12-year-old. Playing the 17th hole of the WGC-HSBC Champions Pro-Am, Scott found the bunker and made bogey. Little Lucy Shi Yuting, a thireteen-time winner in three years on the HSBC National Junior Championship, made par.
The significance is twofold, says the writer of this article, Tim Maitland.
The other girl to beat Scott was a few years ago and someone called Wie – Michelle Wie – and you can make a note that November 3rd 2010 was the day when the elite of men’s golf truly came to realise that China is coming faster than they realized.
“These are the Olympic champions and world champions of the future. They’re fantastic! Fantastic!” raved Europe’s Ryder Cup-winning captain Colin Montgomerie after conducting a clinic with some of the younger children from the HSBC China Junior Golf Program.
“They’re proper golfers. They’re not just kids that can hit a golf ball on the range. These are complete golfers at nine years old: driver, putting, and short game!” Monty continued.
“I think in the next 10 years you’ll see a tremendous growth into competitive golf; I’m talking about into the world’s top 100. That’s inevitable. It’s going to happen. We have to accept that. The competition is coming from this part of the world: Korea, China especially. Golf is booming!”
As Monty was saying those words, Mickelson was coming off the course having also encountered Lucy Shi at the 17th, three days after she beat her rivals by 12 shots over three rounds at the HSBC National Junior Championship final.
“She hit a 6‑iron to about 15 feet from the hole, lipped out the putt and made par. She was an incredible player!” said Lefty.
“You could tell right away that she's got a lot of potential to be a great golfer. She has a wonderful swing, a great short game, great putting stroke. And at only 12, it's amazing how talented she is at such a young age. I hope that she continues to develop and continues to play well and improve and become a force on the LPGA.”
Back on the range, Monty was echoing the words of PGA Tour player Jason Dufner who, a year earlier, having done the same clinic exclaimed the Chinese kids he saw were far superior to their equivalent age group in the States.
“Oh of course they are! Way ahead! And of course the work ethic here is different. These kids are prepared to put in the hours it takes nowadays to become very, very good. You can see how they love it. They’re all involved. It’s fantastic and the work ethic here is different to ours,” Monty said, adding that the focus of the kids he saw put him to shame.
“I was a lazy player myself; two or three hours and I was getting a little bit bored. These kids? Six, seven hours a day and just golf! Then they’re studying as well. This is where the future is. Now golf has become an Olympic sport, in this country it can only add to the opportunities given to them and the incentives given to them. They’re well ahead of our youngsters. If it’s a numbers game China wins every time hands down. I’ve had a successful career I suppose and I started at six and I couldn’t even get the ball airborne when I was ten, never mind hit the ball like this. These are golfers!”
Montgomerie’s comments came as the junior championship was celebrating the one thousandth child to compete in the elite tier of tournaments that have been running since 2007.
“A thousand children may not sound like a lot over the four years that we have been investing in the China Golf Association’s programme, but that’s the top of the pyramid,” said Giles Morgan, HSBC Group Head of Sponsorship.
“Below the top of that pyramid, we have had 8,000 children who have come through our summer and winter camps, learning the great game of golf, and below that, at the foundation of the pyramid, we have had 200,000 children touching golf for the first time in their schools’ PE lessons through the HSBC Education Program,” Morgan added.
Thanks to Tim Maitland for his fascinating insight into China's growing golf program.
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