For Zhang Lianwei, 1999 could not be labelled a vintage year. At least to this point. Wily professional that he has become, though, China's number one knows that one good tournament is all that it takes to turn everything around. And for Zhang there could be no better week than the one ahead in which to remind his followers that his desire and determination - qualities that have been such an integral part of his success - are as strong as ever. At British Columbia's Northview Golf & Country Club on Thursday, Zhang will write another chapter in China's golfing history when he tees off in the Air Canada Championship. Performing in Canada may not be a new experience for Zhang, a regular competitor on the Canadian PGA Tour in recent years. As a fully fledged event on the US PGA Tour, however, this week's tournament, for which he has been granted an exemption by the title sponsors, is an entirely different proposition. Not only will it mark another remarkable milestone for Zhang as the first mainland golfer to compete on the world's most prestigious circuit, but also it will see him fulfil a long-held ambition. For much of the 1990s, Zhang has been the face of Chinese golf on the international stage. With his pioneering outlook and spirited performances, he, more than any other individual, has placed China on the world golfing map. Like all aspiring golfers, his ultimate goal has been to progress to the richest of all golfing playgrounds. Few are fortunate enough ever to get presented with an opportunity to do so. And it's only a tiny percentage of those that actually do who make it in the big league. Much attention is sure to be focused on Zhang. Inevitably the North American golfing media will milk the story's novelty value for all it's worth. He'll be quizzed about his past, how he got into the game, how many golf courses and players there are in the world's most populous country, and who his golfing idols have been. They are questions he's had to field dozens of times before. He and his manager-interpreter Debbie Yeung have the answers off pat. However, having an interviewee respond in Cantonese will be a first for the US press corps who rarely these days have time to file anything other than articles about how many zeroes are on the end of Tiger Woods' endorsement contracts and the gripes of the money-grabbing US Ryder Cup team. While Zhang's US PGA Tour debut is likely to prove as much a test of his ambassadorial skills as his golfing talents, the globe-trotting 34-year-old from Shenzhen will be anxious for his on-course efforts to speak just as eloquently as any number of words he may utter. That said, his expectations remain realistic. Simply making the halfway cut at the Air Canada Championship would give Zhang cause to fly high as he prepares for a hectic final third of the year which will include appearances on four of the world's other five recognised circuits - Europe, Japan, Australia and Asia. Although the occasion may be intimidating, Zhang is unlikely to be overawed. He feels comfortable playing in Canada, where he has made many friends with former Hong Kong residents. Neither will the prospect of playing alongside the game's rich and famous faze him. Over the past five years, his playing partners have included Fred Couples, Davis Love III, Colin Montgomerie, Bernhard Langer and Woods, whom he outscored over the first two rounds of last year's Johnnie Walker Classic.