Pioneering Zhang proves he's still a driving force
For Zhang Lianwei, the 21st century could not arrive quickly enough.
Despite two fifth-place finishes on the Asian PGA Tour and a debut appearance on the US Tour, 1999 was a letdown for the man who has been at the forefront of China's golfing march throughout the last decade.
Although nagging injuries contributed to his problems, Zhang refused to blame them for his loss of form and confidence.
But that's all in the past - all that concerns him now is the future. The spring is back in the step of the pioneering 34-year-old who, more than any other individual, has helped to place China on the world golfing map.
Reinvigorated by a New Year break and the prospect of fresh challenges, Zhang is looking as lean and mean as ever.
He knows 2000 is an important year on three fronts - domestically, around Asia and on the international stage. And he's fired up for it.
Although Zhang's motivation to succeed comes from within, he now believes he will also be driven by the emergence of a young pretender to his long-held throne as the mainland's number one.
Already Liang Wenchong is being described as the next Zhang Lianwei and it's no idle talk.
The 21-year-old from Chung Shan can play, as Zhang knows only too well.
Indeed, in a thrilling showdown last December, Liang edged out his mentor to finish on top of the 1999 China PGA Order of Merit.
Forget the fact Zhang did not take part in all of the events - his professional pride was hurt.
Those who do not know Zhang dared to whisper that his days a golfing ambassador were numbered.
Those who do know him are convinced Liang's presence will only serve to strengthen Zhang's resolve.
A top-20 finish in the Greg Norman Holden Invitational in Australia a fortnight ago indicated that neither has Zhang's appetite for the game diminished, nor has his ambition waned.
With his victory in last week's Shell Hong Kong Closed Amateur Championship, Roderick Staunton booked himself a passage to Germany later this year. Staunton, the reigning Hong Kong Golf Club champion, fired a four-round aggregate of 294 over Fanling's New Course to add the national crown to his collection of silverware.
By dint of his three-stroke success from Chris Tang Shing-chi, Staunton guaranteed himself a place in Hong Kong's four-man team for the World Amateur Team Championships for the Eisenhower Trophy at Sporting Club Berlin from August 31-September 3.
Going into the final round, Staunton trailed Tang by three shots. But with Tang dropping seven strokes in five holes from the fifth, Staunton found himself one ahead at the turn and never looked likely to relinquish the lead.
Despite closing with an 80, Tang held on to second place, one in front of Stuart Murray, Alistair Mullen and Eric Saxvik, whose final-round two-under-par 68 was the best return of the tournament.
Nevertheless, Tang at least had the satisfaction of securing the Hong Kong Order or Merit title for 1999-2000. Assuming he retains his amateur status, he is likely to line up alongside Staunton in Germany.
Also celebrating a triumph at Fanling was Mike Grimsdick. Thanks to rounds of 75 and 76 he held off the challenge of Walter Kwong in the 36-hole Hong Kong Senior Championship.
David Paulon enjoyed the most auspicious of starts to the Year of the Dragon.
Playing Shek O Country Club's 204-yard, par-three ninth hole into a stiff breeze, Paulon used his driver to record an unlikely hole-in-one, believed to be the first of the Lunar New Year.