Chinese pro golfers Liao Guiming and Zhang Lianwei
Where: Nanjing Zhongshan International Golf Club
Getting There: Take the bullet train from Shanghai Railway Station to Nanjing. Train schedule here (trains beginning with “D” are bullet trains). We suggest buying return ticket in Shanghai — lines are really long at Nanjing station. Tickets should be RMB 93. Golf course is 10 minutes from train station. Tell taxi driver to go to: 环陵路, 钟山高尔夫球场 or huánlínglù, zhōngshāngāoĕrfū qiú chăng.
It was warm and windy today, and it’s supposed to rain a bit on Friday, but the weather is looking wonderful this weekend for the Sofitel Zhongshan IGC Open golf tournament in Nanjing, just a two-hour bullet train ride from Shanghai. The Nanjing event, played on a Gary Player designed course, is the second stop on the 2009 China Tour, China’s five-year-old domestic golf circuit.
With RMB 1.2 million in prize money, this is the richest tournament in the tour’s short history. The Nanjing leg also boasts the largest, and arguably strongest, field ever, with 144 players. And 31 of those golfers hail from outside Mainland China, another tour record.1 In all, 14 nationalities are represented. Just two years ago it was a big deal when the once Mainland-only tour invited a handful of players from Taiwan and Hong Kong to compete in two events, now white writers attending tournaments get mistaken for competitors — things sure are changing fast.
“There are a lot of foreigners in this field and many have come from far away. It looks like an Asian Tour or European Tour event,” said Zhang Lianwei, China’s most famous pro. “The competition on the Omega China Tour is now much stronger and this is good for the Chinese players. There’s more pressure to perform well, which can be both positive and negative, like two sides of a coin.”
Zhang shot a 3-under 69 in the first round and is tied for the lead with Australian Kurt Barnes. Nineteen-year-old Su Dong is one stroke back, tied with Wu Kangchun.
If you can’t make it to the tournament, you can follow live scoring here. Also, if you can handle it, China bloggers Lonnie Hodge and Peter Davison will be “live-tweeting” (yes live-tweeting) the event here.
If you are craving more background information on the China Tour — and we know you are — there are some mildly enlightening links here.
1 The Nanjing tournament will also likely go down as the first and last China Tour event to include live horses in its opening ceremony. Long story.