Testing times for stars of tomorrow

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 February, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 February, 2000, 12:00am

As institutions for academic excellence, Hong Kong's schools are frequently lauded as being above par.

But that same high level of classroom performance has not been replicated in the SAR's sporting arenas,.

Although soccer, basketball and athletics feature on the curricula of Hong Kong schools, there's no masking the fact that sport in general, with its limited career opportunities, is a low priority.

Hardly surprising then that non-mainstream activities such as golf have struggled even to have a look in. Just consider that not so very long ago the only children to be exposed to the sport here were the sons and daughters of members of Hong Kong golf clubs.

That more than 100 children will tee-off at Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club in today's Hong Kong Schools Championship is evidence that times, and attitudes, are slowly changing.

Credit for that is due largely to the Hong Kong Schools Golf Association (HKSGA) which, under the co-chairmanship of Mike Baker and David Elliott, is working with Hong Kong schools to raise the profile of the Royal and Ancient game.

The message, it seems, is filtering through with no fewer that 20 schools entering teams for today's championship. Among the incentives for competitors at Clearwater Bay is the prospect of representing Hong Kong in the International Final of the Golf Foundation Team Championship for Schools, to be held at Royal County Down Golf Club in Northern Ireland in May.

In last year's 12-nation final over the Old Course at St Andrews, the SAR flag was flown by the German Swiss International School trio of George Moore, Christian Streit and Jacqueline Cheng, one of only two females in the 36-strong field.

Despite the perennial problem of a shortage of available starting times at the SAR's courses, the HKSGA, in conjunction with the Hong Kong Golf Association, are being pro-active in their attempts to offer more chances for school children to play. It's early days yet and, as Baker and Elliott acknowledge, there are many lessons to be learned.

But at least an infrastructure is now in place that provides a degree of hope for Hong Kong school children wishing to gain a basic education in golf.

It's not often that you hear professional golfers talk about the fun they derive from playing the game. After all, it's their livelihood, and is not something to be taken lightly.

How refreshing, therefore, to listen to Taiwan's Yeh Wei-tze in the wake of his shock triumph in last week's Malaysian Open, a joint-sanctioned event between the Asian PGA and European tours.

Admitting he was as surprised as anyone to emerge victorious at Kuala Lumpur's Templer Park Country Club, the unheralded and unassuming 27-year-old revealed the influential role that legendary compatriot 'Mr' Lu Liang-huan has had on his career.

'He told me always to enjoy the game and not just to think about win, win, win,' said Yeh.

Now with old friend Zhang Lianwei, Yeh will form a regular two-pronged Chinese assault on the European circuit. Zhang has ploughed a lonely furrow in Europe and will welcome having someone familiar alongside him.