Zhang Lianwei practises in Malaysia yesterday.

More public courses, says Chinese golfer Zhang Lianwei

Veteran is trying to persuade government officials to help expand the game at home


Chinese golf's elder statesman, Zhang Lianwei, says his playing days on the Asian Tour are becoming far and few between as he pursues his next challenge - to persuade government officials to build more public courses.

While the competitive juices are still flowing, the 48-year-old Zhang acknowledged it was becoming increasingly difficult to compete against the game's young guns and he has switched his focus to a variety of projects.

The one closest to his heart is his drive to push the government to build more public courses, which he believes is one of the keys to getting more young players to take up the game.

"When I started, there were only a handful of us playing competitive golf and then Liang Wenchong and Wu Ashun came through over the last 10 years or so. We've now got Hu Mu and Ye Jianfeng coming through, but there are not enough young players who are out here competing. China needs to be like Thailand, India or Korea who have a lot of top players on the Asian Tour," said Zhang as he prepared to tee it up today at the US$400,000 Worldwide Holdings Selangor Masters in Malaysia.

"I've been talking to the government about building public golf courses and there are three potential sites. I am keen to push this through as this is the only way to get more young golfers to pick up and learn the game," the five-time Asian Tour champion said.

Zhang believes there are about 700 courses spread across the mainland but he laments that only a handful are public facilities. "It's very expensive to play golf at members' clubs," he said. "That is why my aim is to see more public golf courses in China," he said.

Zhang is keen to give back to the game through his own foundation. He said that through donations and sponsorship, he had raised funds to provide an indoor golf stimulator at his former high school in Shenzhen.

"I hope to fund junior golf, coaches and players through my foundation. We have recently provided a stimulator to my previous school which I hope will encourage the kids to play the game," he said.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: China needs more public courses, says Zhang