Wu Ashun’s victory at the Volvo China Open provided a fittingly historic conclusion to a two-week spell in China which may well signal the emergence of earth’s most populous nation as a force to be reckoned with in world golf.
The 29 year old rose to the occasion in front of the home fans as he overcame seasoned veteran David Howell at Tomson Shanghai Pudong Golf Club to become the first Chinese player to win a European Tour title on home soil.
It was a memorable day for Chinese golf and, while the crowds were elated to watch one of their own overcome an elite group of European and world golfers, their hushed celebrations at the 18th green after Howell missed his putt to force a play-off proved just how knowledgeable and respectful they are with regard to a sport which is reaching new levels of popularity.
The Shanghai native became the third player to lift a European Tour title, after Zhang Lian-wei (2003 Singapore Masters) and Liang Wen-chong (2007 Singapore Masters), but this one may prove a pivotal one in the country’s golf history.
The venue too was certainly an appropriate one, as not only did Wu grow up a stone’s throw from Tomson Shanghai Pudong, Shunsuke Kato’s design also hosted the very first European Tour event on Chinese soil back in 2004, when Miguel Angel Jiménez claimed his third of four wins that season in the Asian Open.
A year later, Stephen Dodd claimed victory in the inaugural edition of the Volvo China Open, a tournament that would grow to become the longest-running event on Chinese soil, with the likes of Paul Casey, YE Yang and Nicolas Colsaerts all adding their names to the prestigious list of winners.
It means a lot to the country. We have been waiting for this moment for a long, long time.
The most important edition for the host nation, however, came last week and Wu was overcome with emotion, summing up just how significant his triumph was for his home country.
“It means a lot to the country with a Chinese player winning the China Open,” he said afterwards. “We have been waiting for this moment for a long, long time. It’s a very happy day for all of us. Thanks to all the fans, my family, friends and of course the media’s support.
With four European Tour events taking place on Chinese soil this year, as well as another in Hong Kong, it was only a matter of time before the success began to show in the way of results.
While Wu was the star of the show in Shanghai, it was also a fruitful week for one of China’s most talented young rising talents Li Hao-Tong.
The 19 year old looked every bit a future star as he enthralled the crowds with his outstanding golf and his infectious enthusiasm.
Running after shots and celebrating wildly when his putts dropped, Li was a pleasure to watch and Wu thinks that his compatriot has a bright future ahead.
“This victory means a lot to many Chinese golfers,” said Wu, who moved to 126th in the Official World Golf Ranking. “Li is a great player and I strongly believe that he will have a bright future.
“I played with him in the third round and found out he is getting better and more mature. He is a great ball-striker with lots of potential, it’s too bad he didn’t win but I believe he will win many events in his career.”
There are surely many more victories to come for Chinese golf as The European Tour continues to celebrate golf. Worldwide.