By Nick Totten, europeantour.com
At Chongqing Poly Golf Club
After a season teeing it up on the Challenge Tour, Wen-yi Huang has returned home this week to play in the inaugural Shankai Classic presented by IDG, as part of a 62 strong Chinese contingent chasing European Challenge Tour glory.
He may have started life as a caddie, but after time working within golf club management and as an assistant teaching professional, Huang is now working towards his dream of one day becoming the world’s best player.
Last season he teed it up five times on The European Tour, three of which came in his homeland, where he achieved a best finish of a tie for 34th at the WGC-HSBC Champions at Sheshan International Golf Club.
Huang also played twice in Europe, at both the Irish Open and the BMW International Open, the latter of which saw him card three rounds in the 60s en route to seventh place at Golfclub München Eichenried.
Those results added up to a 177th place finish on The Race to Dubai, which while not enough to earn his place at golf's top table, meant that he earned playing rights on the Challenge Tour for 2014.
His goal is to finish in the top 15 on the Rankings come season’s end, which is still a possibility considering the large prize funds on offer and the US$3,500,000 this week. However it would require a turnaround in form for the man who is yet to show his best form on the second tier after carding an opening round of 77 at Chongqing Poly Golf Club.
Life in Europe this season has been a little different to what Huang is used to in his native China, and across Asia, which may explain his difficulties on the course so far, but he has appreciated the chance to see different cultures, experience new styles of golf, and to hone his game.
“This season I have had a full card on the Challenge Tour and I wanted to earn enough money here so I can earn my place on The European Tour,” said Huang. “I have played in several European Tour events in China – like the Volvo China Open and the BMW Masters – as well as at The Irish Open and at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
“The players in Europe have great ability, excellent skill, and it has been really good so far. It has not been too different playing on the Challenge Tour either, as there are a number of great players, which makes for a very competitive environment.
“During the tournaments so far the weather has been very different, which has been one of the main changes from playing in Asia, as we have seen fog, heavy rain, wind and sun. It has been very varied.
“Also the food is very different, which has taken some getting used to. However, in Europe it is very beautiful, and it feels like every time you take out your phone to take a picture it is like an oil painting. I really enjoy the nature too, so I want to stay here a long time.”
It is fitting in 2014 that there has been a Chinese player teeing it up full time on the Challenge Tour as the second tier returns to the Far East for the next instalment of The Foshan Open, and this week’s inaugural Shankai Classic presented by IDG.
Huang is excited to have the Challenge Tour return to Chinese soil for the first time since 2008, and he believes that having events like this in his homeland are important to help make golf more popular.
The 33 year old hopes that eventually golf will be available to anyone who wants to play it, and that he will be able to repay the faith shown in him by the China Golf Association over the past nine years. In doing so, he would also love to inspire the next generation of Chinese golfers by achieving his Major Championship goals.
“I will play both this week and next, and look forward to earning plenty of points at home,” said Huang. “I think it is a very good idea to come here, and having the Challenge Tour will be very popular. At the moment there are a lot of young people, and it will be good for them to see golf up close.
“The career goal for any golfer is to be the best in the world, to win the four Major Championships, and that is what I want too. In China I also hope there will be more tournaments like those from The European Tour and the Challenge Tour, so China can consistently have its own events and show the game to people.
"From there I hope that golf in the future becomes popular and acceptable for all families in China so we can find the best players. Golf here may just be starting out, but we have a lot of talented young kids, and I think in the near future there will be Chinese players right at the top of the game.”