For those of you wondering what Shanghaiist’s founding editor Dan Washburn has been up to for the past half year or so (other than not posting very much on Shanghaiist) there was some evidence last week that he is alive and well and doing more than sitting on his couch counting his Shanghaiist money (really, that would only take around five minutes). Go to ESPN.com (here, here and here) for stories related to his book project on golf in China. Please, please, please help him get this published, because we’d like him back posting on Shanghaiist ASAP, thank you very much.
While we’re not really big sports fans, it’s hard not to like the personal stories of these Chinese professional golfers Dan has been following around all year on the China Tour. Here’s a little bit from his story about a 35-year-old golfer named Zhou Xunshu (pictured), who Dan tells us plays a major role in the book (which Dan tells us is still a ways away from being finished):
A word that Zhou often uses to describe his childhood is “ku,” which means “bitter.” Qixin, a tiny village in rural Guizhou Province, didn’t have electricity until the early 1990s, and despite China’s “opening up” in the late 1970s, the effects of the planned economy days lingered in the village throughout the 1980s (even today the average rural family in Guizhou earns less than $100 a month). Zhou talks about sharing a bed with three of his brothers inside the family’s stone home. He talks about hauling heavy loads of coal on his back 5 kilometers at a time. He talks about going hungry, looking at the family’s boxes of government-provided potatoes knowing they wouldn’t last the ever-expanding household — two parents, seven children, and various in-laws, aunts and uncles — through the winter.
“Life in the mountains was pretty tough,” Zhou says. “When we traveled into town we could see other people had better lives than us. But it’s a page of my life. Conditions were bad and there was nothing we could do about it.”
But when Zhou landed at Guangzhou International Golf Club (GIGC) in late 1995, he thought of Qixin and smiled. He saw mountains. He saw green. And he was reminded of home. He also saw, for the first time in his life, grown men using metal sticks to hit a little white ball in the grass. But that, too, seemed oddly familiar. Back in the village, while children were watching the cattle in the pasture, they’d play a game that involved balling up wads of paper and using tree branches to knock them into holes dug in the ground.