Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia showed the kind of soft touch that is so important around the greens when they cuddled one of the world’s most endangered animals, a giant panda cub, ahead of this week’s Volvo China Open.
The European Tour stars and Ryder Cup teammates visited Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where they held Ya Yun, a seven month-old cub which is part of the largest captive born giant panda population in the world.
Three-time Major winner Harrington is using his trip to China for a family holiday and was accompanied by his wife Caroline and children Patrick and Ciaran, who also had the rare opportunity to look after Ya Yun.
“As a family we wanted to take in some of the fantastic culture of China before I play the Volvo China Open,” said the Irishman. “We did the Great Wall, the Teracotta Warriors, the Forbidden City and now the giant pandas and for the whole family it has been the highlight of what has been a great break before I get down to the serious business of trying to win China’s national open golf championship.”
The Volvo China Open is being played at Luxehills International Country Club in Chengdu for the first time, with Y E Yang, the man who succeeded Harrington as US PGA Champion in 2009, defending his title.
Chengdu is renowned as the home of the giant panda and Spaniard Garcia, who last European Tour victory came on Chinese soil in the 2009 HSBC Champions in Shanghai, also took time out to visit the world renowned breeding centre.
Garcia said: “I have come over with my brother Victor Jnr and it is a great thrill and a privilege to be allowed to get so close to Ya Yun who was just amazing.”
Per Ericsson, President of Volvo Event Management, said: “Volvo is renowned for looking after the players and we were just so pleased that we were able to arrange for Sergio and Padraig, and especially Pádraig’s kids, to experience something they will remember for the rest of their lives.
“But there is a very serious dimension to the visit, which is closely associated with Volvo’s passion for and commitment to Environmental Care. The giant pandas are endangered as a species, so we are also highlighting the work of the breeding project.”