Steering students on a new course
Youngsters hold key to China's future on links
China is taking a big swing at closing the gap on the golf's global heavyweights by introducing the sport to students in order to deepen the national talent pool.
In an exclusive interview with China Daily, Jin Hongwen, director of the golf department at the Multi-Balls Sports Administrative Center of the State General Administration of Sports, said including golf in physical education classes for primary and secondary schools is a "key task" this year.
The Chinese Golf Association is compiling instructional material in easy-to-understand manuals to be used across the country, including information on swing and putting techniques and the game's rules and etiquette.
The CGA will train physical education teachers in basic golf techniques and organize national school tournaments - building on the efforts of associations at the city and provincial levels.
"We have been trying to introduce golf in schools for years, but progress was slow," said Jin.
"We will step up the effort this year by selecting some pilot schools. We hope to see a large and sustainable growth in the number of young golfers."
Schools will not need to build courses, Jin said. Practice nets, artificial putting greens and golf simulators will be utilized to provide basic instruction indoors.
Students who want to receive more instruction can go to clubs accredited by the Chinese Golf Association as youth training centers. They will provide no less than 400 hours of annual practice free of charge to teenage golfers registered with the CGA.
There are currently 113 CGA-certified training centers in China and that number will reach 300 by 2020, according to the association's 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20).
Chinese golfers' poor showing at the World Ladies Championship in Haikou, Hainan province, on the weekend underlined the wide gap with golf powers like South Korea.
South Koreans dominated the event, claiming 19 of the top 22 spots after Sunday's final round.
China's top finisher was Li Jiayun, who tied for 27th place. Zhang Weiwei, who was ranked third on the 2016 CLPGA Order of Merit, finished 53rd.
Zhang, who was born in Haikou, struggled on her home course.
"During the offseason I spent a lot of time on my short game, which is my soft spot. But I didn't play as well as I did in practice," said the 20-year-old.
"I was so anxious to try for birdies that I lost focus on my short game.
"I need to participate in as many competitions as I can to enhance my mental strength to deliver stable performances in all kinds of situations."
To help homegrown golfers gain more experience, the China LPGA Tour plans to increase the number of this year's tournaments from 17 to 20.