The European Challenge Tour may have said farewell to China for another year but its memory lives on, with last week’s Junior Pro Am at the Foshan Open clearly having made a real impression on the youngsters lucky enough to take part.
Touching handwritten letters of thanks were sent to the professionals who took part thanking them for the experience as two juniors each played with one Challenge Tour star in a nine-hole tournament.
Charlie Ford, whose caddie Jason Palmer won the Foshan Open in 2014, was one of the players who took part, and described it as a memorable high-point of the week.
“It was really good fun,” said the 31 year old. “It makes a nice change from a usual Pro Am, and my team was great company, and really useful golfers – they sent us a thank you letter as well which was really nice.
“When you’re that young, only nine or ten, you can’t fake that enthusiasm, and the shorter format was perfect. It was great to be part of it and it’s definitely the sort of thing we should do more often.”
James Heath’s team were victorious on the day, and the Englishman was similarly positive about the event, in which ten teams competed.
“It was a really nice Pro Am,” said the 34 year old. “From my point of view, after a couple of weeks away from home, you can get in your own head a bit, and to play with juniors, who are just loving life, it reminds you what golf used to be about.
“They were loving it, they were super enthusiastic, and nine holes was the perfect amount. They were so impressive as well, ten years old and just flushing it. It was just a really nice event.”
Vic Carder, Director of Golf at Foshan Golf Club, said: “I think it was a great success – and those juniors also volunteered on the driving range on the Saturday and Sunday.
“We want our juniors to understand the important life lessons that golf can teach all of us – we want great people not just great golfers, and that's why we require them to play golf without a caddie as they have to show respect to the course, to each other and finally respect themselves.
“We have a motto: ‘we are the future leaders of golf in China.’ We have been lucky, as these juniors are pretty good most of the time, and we want to help make them a better person first and then a better golfer.”