Postcard from... Beijing
For many years in China, golf has been seen as “green opium” beloved of those on the road to capitalism. But the success of 14-year-old golf prodigy Guan Tianlang has done much to break down mistrust of the sport and golf’s inclusion as an Olympic sport from 2016 will do a lot to boost its profile here.
As the youngest player to compete in the Masters, his story has yet to cause the kind of frenzy that tennis star Li Na has caused. He has a mere 28,000 followers on Weibo so far.
Golf is seen as a rich man’s sport in China, and the government has stopped the construction of new golf courses because of instances where land was snatched by dodgy property developers, often with the connivance of corrupt local officials.
But China particularly cherishes sports stars in disciplines where it does not normally do so well, such as golf, and its inclusion in the Olympics will give it greater traction.
But ensuring Olympic success is also crucial, and Australian golf legend Greg Norman has been named coach of the Chinese national team as part of China’s efforts to make sure it competes at a high level in Brazil in three years time.
“Obviously he [Guan] can physically play the game of golf but his mental discipline is incredible and that’s just the quintessential Chinese cultural approach,” said Norman.
Guan himself is trying to calm expectations. He said there are “many good golfers” in the country where the game is developing “very fast”.
“I just want to do my best to pursue my dreams and enjoy golf,” he said.
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