Dan Washburn of ESPN.com recently wrote an outstanding article about the future of golf in China as a prelude to this week?s Mission Hills World Cup. As I was reading Washburn?s story all I could think about was how similar the current state of Chinese golf is, as they host golf?s World Cup, in comparison to when the United States hosted football?s World Cup in 1994.
In both cases each sport?s foremost international event was held in a nation that was not a traditional power in the sport, but had the potential to become major players in the future thanks to large populations and strong athletic programs.
The 1994 World Cup was the highest attended sporting event in American history and led to a football renaissance in the United States that saw the birth of Major League Soccer, which recently celebrated it?s 10th anniversary. The rise of football?s youth participation in the States has also lead to a record number of Yanks playing in many of the top European leagues, including 13 currently in the Premiership.
Can a similar surge occur for golf in China? Judging from the strides made in the Chinese developmental system over the past few years, the prospect of China as a future golf power isn?t nearly as laughable as it was at the turn of the 21st century.
China Golf Association created the Omega China Tour in 2005 as a developmental tour along the lines of the European Challenge Tour with the intent of readying players to make successful leaps to the Asian and European Tour.
Meanwhile, Mission Hills Golf Club in Shenzhen recently won the bidding to host the World Cup of Golf until 2019, while another successful edition of the HSBC Champions event in Shanghai was recently won by Phil Mickelson.
To be fair, the United States did not have a strict communist regime attempting to regulate every aspect of national sport, which could unfortunately stunt golf?s potential for enormous growth in China if their government decides to involve themselves in the China Golf Association?s future plans for growing the game.
Yet, with the development of China?s now excellent sport facilities and growing financial resources it may not be very long before the golf world sees a generation of Chinese superstars begin to emerge as perennial contenders for an Order of Merit award on the Asian and European Tours.