The 19th Volvo China Open is just a month away and all the signs are that we are in for an intriguing contest. The field of international golf stars, including defending champion Branden Grace, Ryder Cup star Paul Lawrie, long-hitting Álvaro Quirós, Scott Jamieson and Thomas Björn, 13-time winner on the European Tour, will be challenged by China’s rising stars with Andy Zhang and Jim Liu leading the way. The youngest player ever to compete on The European Tour, Ye Wo-cheng, will be rubbing shoulders with experienced stars and proven winners at Tianjin Binhai Lake Golf Club from May 2-5.
In recent years, the ever-strengthening international challenge at the Volvo China Open has produced some fine champions, not least last year's outstanding winner, South Africa's Branden Grace. He will be keen to return to the winner's circle after a prolific year in 2012 and is looking forward to the challenge.
He said: “I can’t wait to defend my title and I hope I can keep up the trend of playing my best golf in Volvo’s tournaments! Obviously I know and enjoy the course at Binhai Lake, and I am extremely keen to successfully defend a title for the first time. The welcome I had here last year was unbelievable and I’m really looking forward to returning and doing all I can to win the 19th Volvo China Open.”
Grace will be defending his title against stars such as Álvaro Quirós who is keen to get back on the winning trail. The Spaniard commented: "With injury, I've been out of contention for way too long, but I feel I am in really good shape now. It’s always special to play an Open, and I would love to win the Volvo China Open and get back in the winner's circle."
Another established star and favourite of the fans is former Open Champion and Ryder Cup hero Paul Lawrie. He is enjoying a sustained renaissance in his career and is keen to do well at Binhai Lake.
He said: "I know that there are plenty of amazing young talents making their move at the moment, so it’s going to be an exciting week at Binhai Lake for sure." The Scotsman continued, “Winning would be amazing and would also mean securing a spot in the Volvo World Match Play, so there’s a lot at stake.”
With the likes of multiple European Tour winner Thomas Björn from Denmark and Scotland’s Scott Jamieson, who recently won the Nelson Mandela Championship presented by ISPS Handa, there is undoubtedly strength in depth in the field at Tianjin.
However, there is a storm rising amongst the host nation's younger players with 12 year old Ye Wo-cheng re-writing the history books after gaining his place in Western China Qualifying last month.
After making history, he said: “Playing in the Volvo China Open will be a fantastic experience for me so I am doing everything I can to be well prepared. It is amazing that I will get to play on The European Tour, and compete with some of my big idols.”
Also in the field are Andy Zhang, the youngest competitor in the history of the US Open, and Jim Liu, who in 2010 took Tiger Woods’ record as the youngest ever winner of the US Junior Amateur. 15 year-old Bai Zheng-kai is also in the field courtesy of his win in the Volvo China Junior Match Play Championship.
The China Golf Association can be very happy with the progress of its emerging stars and rightly proud to see so many of their young golfers moving onto the world stage. It may now only be a matter of time before there is the first Chinese winner of a Major, and the strong relationship between the CGA and Volvo has been a vital factor.
Per Ericsson, President of Volvo Event Management echoes these thoughts, said: “We have very much enjoyed our relationship with golf in China over many years and it really seems to be paying dividends in terms of the incredible young talent here."
Ericsson added: “We are very proud of our strong position in golf here, especially as Volvo’s core businesses in this key market constantly keep developing.”
The closing date for entry is two weeks prior to the event, with players confirming their participation until then.