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TWO LEGENDS FORESEE A CHINESE INFLUX

Gary Player has issued a turn-of-the-year warning. While co-hosting a Rolex breakfast with Annika Sörenstam at the recent Evian Championship, he said that Americans were in for “a rude awakening” with regard to the advance of male Chinese golfers.annika

“A lot of Americans live in a cocoon,” he said. “They’re unaware of what’s happening. I’m not blaming them for it because people from wealthy countries like the US tend to have self-entitlement issues. The Chinese – and the Koreans for that matter – aren’t like that at all and, because of it, they’ve got this enhanced desire to do well. The only thing that could hold the Chinese back is if their government refuses to make way for golf to expand.”

Player admitted he himself had been slow on the uptake vis-à-vis Chinese golfers until 2012. To this day, he has never forgotten how his wife, Vivienne, had looked up from her newspaper one morning to tell him that a 14-year-old boy had won a place in the 2013 Masters. He promptly rang Augusta to check the story out – and to say that he didn’t agree with what was happening.

Player’s main concern was that the boy would be so far out of his depth that he might be put off golf for life. When Guan Tianlang won low-amateur honours at Augusta and followed up by making the cut in New Orleans, Player said it was arguably the most extraordinary fear he had ever witnessed. “I couldn’t,” he admitted, “have been more wrong about the child.”

Sörenstam said that she was similarly captivated by what the Chinese men might do next. “It will take just one face to open the door.”

She mused on how the advance of different nationalities happened in circles. “I’m here,” she said, “because of (Liselotte) Neumann, a sister Swede who won a major ahead of me. For years, the LPGA Tour was all about Americans; then you had Laura Davies and (Neumann) bringing Europeans to the fore – and then came the Koreans. The Chinese could well be next.

“The LPGA players aren’t like the men. They totally understand what’s going on. They’ve seen Shanshan Feng becoming the first Chinese major winner and they’re well aware that plenty of her young compatriots are waiting in the wings. The only question they ask is ‘when’ the floodgates are going to open.”

Even though Sörenstam worked as diligently as Player and any woman of her era, she marvels at how the Asian brigade take hard work to a new level: “I’ve spent a lot of time studying them on the practice range. They’re there from first thing in the morning and they’re still there late at night. Also, I’ve noticed how, if you give them a swing tip, they ‘get it’ straightaway, which is most unusual.

“Still better, they’re not a roller coaster of emotions…”

In staying with their theme of golf around the world, Player and Sörenstam paused to discuss the Ladies European Tour and how it had been shedding tournaments hand over fist for the past few seasons. “You can’t,” said Sörenstam, sadly, “make a living in Europe anymore.”

The pair were relieved to hear that the LPGA, the men’s European Tour and the R&A were ready to launch a rescue attempt, though Player was more than mildly concerned that the PGA Tour, with all its millions, had not added its name to the list. “Good teamwork is what’s needed in a situation like this. All the tours should help each other,” he said.

Though this may be the first that Jay Monahan and his troops are hearing of this particular Player comment, they are not going to be overly concerned. Not now that the LET have decided that they should have one more crack at trying to sort things out for themselves. (Here, we can only assume that things are taking a turn for the better behind the scenes.)

Intriguingly, Player said he saw professional golf as tougher by far for the women than the men, especially for those among them who had reached the point where they wanted to meet someone and settle down to have a family.

Sörenstam gave an understanding nod at that. “Gary’s right. It is lonely out there and it is tough to find the right guy. I know because I went through it twice.” She felt that it had hardly helped her cause by being successful: “It’s tough for a man to support a successful woman.”

In moving on to mention the support she had had from Rolex, this now happily married mother of two said that on those occasions when her sponsors had marked some significant moment in her career with a watch, she had always engraved a summary of the event on its back.

For the purposes of the time-piece she was wearing at the Evian, the message in question told 20 years with the company.

She held up her arm as she said, “See, I have history on my hand.”

 

Article courtesy of Global Golf Post. 

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