China's Hu takes first step towards Olympic dream
The 23-year-old tees off in Myanmar at the start of a long and hard journey leading to Rio in 2016
The road to Rio de Janeiro begins in Yangon today for China's Hu Mu as he takes on the region's stars in the Asian Tour's season-opening Zaykabar Myanmar Open.
The 23-year-old, touted as the next great Chinese hope, is tipped by many to feature in the Olympics when golf makes a return to the Games in three years' time. But the tenacious Hu knows he must take it one step at a time as he prepares his long march.
A final day meltdown at the Asian Tour qualifying school in Thailand last month cost Hu dearly but he is determined to right the wrongs which cost him a top-40 finish and his card.
"There is a bit of pressure which is good," said Hu on the eve of the US$300,000 tournament, which launches the Asian Tour's 10th season. "I don't have full status and I need to have a good start. I've worked on my game, especially mentally after my meltdown in the Q-school final day. I want to get into a good position and see if I can improve on that over the weekend."
Hu, who trains under swing guru David Leadbetter, has taken up membership - and one of China's country exemptions - with the Asian Tour this season, which will give him limited starts. However, he knows the only way he can feature in the big events will be to win a tournament or post good finishes in the early events to get his re-ranking up.
"I want to try to get into more events through the re-ranking. I just have to play as many as I can. I think I'm capable of doing well but it'll be one tournament at a time for me," said Hu, who has countryman Ye Jianfeng for company in Yangon this week.
"I played here last year and finished around 30th. I like the course and layout. I think I'm better prepared this time than at Q-school and I'm looking forward to it."
Hu knows he needs to get around the world's top-200 mark to stand a chance of making the 60-man field in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
"One of my goals is to get to the top 500 in the world this year. I'm not going to think about the Olympics as it's three years away. I think if you get into the top 200, you can get a Chinese golfer into the Olympics," said Hu.
"I see a lot of good things and I just need to put everything together.
"I've already committed to playing a full season on the Asian Tour and I'm looking forward to it."
Hu knows he will face many more knocks in his fledgling career as he continues his journey in the play-for-pay ranks and reckons the bitter experience at qualifying school will make him a better golfer.
"My game is there. Sometimes, the consistency which is caused by mental errors or lack of strategy, I think I need to improve on the small aspects outside of the game. My game, putting and chipping is very good at the moment. I just need to improve on the little stuff to make the rounds better."