As preparations for the inaugural Shankai Classic presented by IDG ramped up on Tuesday, 12 lucky local juniors were treated to lessons from some of the best European Challenge Tour teachers – namely Cyril Bouniol, Joel Sjöholm and Chinese professional Yi Cao.
Tasked with getting the youngsters up to scratch on the driving range, from the sand and with a putter in their hands, the three young guns took to it with aplomb, as they helped a group that ranged in skill and age .
As well as providing an opportunity for the next generation of player to earn their way on to The European Tour, the second tier has also always seen every event it stages as an opportunity to grow the game, especially in territories where it is not necessarily common place.
This was no different at Chongqing Poly Golf Club, and an opportunity too good to miss for the newly married Bouniol, who saw it as a great chance to give back to a game that has so far afforded him the chance to travel the globe and play a sport he loves for a living.
“This is something I have done before at the golf school where I started back home,” said the Texas-based Frenchman. “I try to do it every time I’m home as that is where I started – at the age of 11 – so when I see kids that are six or even younger, it brings joy to me as golf needs that.
“Kids are the future of the game and if they can have fun playing golf, and keep it going, this is a game you can play until you are super old so it is great.
“This my first time in China so I had no idea what I was going to discover over here, and it is a great initiative from the tournament to do a clinic for kids, as it shows they get the point. They need to bring the young crowd to the golf course so they can fall in love with the game, that is how you are going to develop it, and that will bring the parents too.”
Sjöholm, who also visited a local orphanage yesterday, saw it as another great opportunity to give back to the local community and believes these are the kinds of activities that more tournaments should get involved with throughout the season.
“I think we could do more of this kind of thing on the Challenge Tour, as it is a great cause, and I think there would be a lot of kids that would want to spend some time with us – at least I hope so,” said the Gothenburg based Swede. “It is a nice little touch for us to give something back, I know it is not much, but at least it is something that proves we will gladly help and be there for the kids.
“Unfortunately today it was tough as the kids were so good, it was difficult to teach them anything, which is different to how it usually is. All of them apart from one or two were striping it, and they were fantastic, fun kids that were really willing to learn, which was really cool.”
As the only local representative, as part of a 62 strong Chinese contingent this week, Cao was excited to try and do his bit to help grow a game that is on the rise in China and he is looking forward to a chance to play on the Challenge Tour this week.
“Today was pretty cool,” said the 24 year old. “It was my first time doing something like this and it’s great to see so many juniors playing golf, and they did a pretty good job.
“The game is definitely growing here in China, there are a lot of golf courses here and plenty of junior golfers, so it is pretty good right now. I’m excited to play this week, and I feel like the course suits my game, so hopefully I’ll play well.”