Golfer Zhang Lianwei wants to nurture Chinese talent
China's Asian Tour leader nearing end of his career, and wants to help young golfers grow
Zhang Lianwei, China's most successful golfer on the Asian Tour, does not plan to ride quietly into the sunset.
The trailblazer intends to play a major role in the development of Chinese golfers through his foundation, where he will pump in financial support and coaching expertise to fast-track the growth of young golfers.
With the game returning to the Olympics in Rio De Janeiro in 2016, Zhang wants to ensure his country will have representatives in the men's field.
"Our junior golfers are way behind the other countries in the boys' division," said Zhang, who is competing in this week's US$750,000 Venetian Macau Open, where he has won twice.
"I started my own Zhang Lianwei Sports Foundation this year, as I want to help develop the game in my country. I want to give our young golfers a direction, instead of just seeing them hit golf balls."
Part of Zhang's master plan is to give motivational talks in sports schools. Through his foundation, he will also employ a pool of coaches to teach youngsters the finer points of the game.
The Shenzhen-based Zhang, who is a self-taught golfer, said he developed into an international player by cutting his professional teeth on the Asian Tour over 15 years ago. "The Asian Tour helped me grow as a player. It is also nice to see that I have grown along with the tour. It's good to see that," the five-time tour champion said.
"I have enjoyed my time on the Asian Tour as it allowed me to grow and become a truly international player. I've had the opportunity to play in different countries and experience different cultures across Asia, which helped me to develop as a golfer."
The 47-year-old has also kept himself busy with golf-course design work and has already completed three projects on the mainland. He has also sustained his Zhang Lianwei Junior Golf Championship, which he started 12 years ago as a way of giving back to the game.
"I've over 170 players coming to Shenzhen every year to play in my junior tournament, from the age of five to 18 years old. Hopefully these players will grow," he said.
Despite being in the twilight of his career, the competitive fire still burns, especially when he is back for the Macau Open, which he won in 2001 and 2002. He has six other top-10s at the Macau Golf and Country Club.
"It's good to be back. It is a home tournament for me, as my home is close by, while I have many good friends here, too. This course fits my style of play, as I hit the ball low. It helps with the wind here. It's a tight course but I always feel comfortable."
Three-time Asian Tour Order of Merit winner Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand headlines the event, along with 48 tour champions, including defending champion Chan Yih-shin of Taiwan, and 1991 Masters winner Ian Woosnam of Wales.
Two-time European No1 Woosnam, 54, has 48 international victories and now competes regularly on the European Seniors Tour. In 2006, he captained Europe to a commanding victory over the US in the Ryder Cup.