China’s leading golfer, Liang Wen-chong will go head-to-head with two of the most well known players in world golf in an effort to bring the Volvo China Open title back ‘home’ for the first time since the event joined the European Tour in 2004.
Triple Major Champion Pádriag Harrington and Spanish sensation Sergio García, both make their Volvo China Open debut this year in its new setting of Luxehills International Country Club in China’s ‘Gateway City,’ Chengdu, from April 21-24, 2011.
Liang will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of his compatriot, friend and mentor, Zhang Lianwei, who won the Volvo China Open in 2003, the year before China’s national open golf championship joined The European Tour.
“Every player from whatever country dreams of winning his national open golf championship and, of course, I am no different,” said Liang. “For me, winning the Volvo China Open would be like winning a Major title and my preparations will be geared-up to playing my very best golf at Luxehills, where I have great memories from winning there in 2010 on my way to the OneAsia Order of Merit title.”
The 32-year-old Chinese number-one is already a winner on The European Tour, famously winning the 2007 Singapore Masters and donated his RMB1.2million (Approx.US$183,000) first prize towards golf development in his native China welcomes the imminent arrival of two of golf’s great names to his national open golf championship.
“The Volvo China Open has been growing in importance over the past few years, and with a record prize purse of RMB20million (Approx. US$3million), many of the best players in world golf will be attracted to play,” he said. “I welcome Pádraig and Sergio, two great golfers to my country and to my open golf championship, and other world-class golfers are welcome too, because if I am to win my own open championship, I have to beat the very best in the world.”
Harrington, who has 26 professional titles to his name, will be making his maiden appearance in the Volvo China Open and is excited by the prospect of playing in an open championship that has grown in significance every year since its launch back in 1995.
“I have always enjoyed playing in China and been made to feel incredibly welcome,” said the 39-year-old Ryder Cup star. “I have won twice on Chinese soil, at the 2003 Asian Open and the 2004 Hong Kong Open and would love to make it a hat-trick by capturing the Volvo China Open in April this year.”
And the two-time winner of The Open Championship, is bringing his family to China, explaining: “We have always promised the kids we would visit the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City and the Terracotta Warriors, but when they heard the Volvo China Open was to be staged in Chengdu, the home of the Giant Panda, that was it, decision made and we are all really looking forward to it.”
Meanwhile, Spanish star Sergio García, is steadily regaining his form with solid performances in the Middle East Swing.
“I have great memories of China, a top 10 in the Johnnie Walker Classic in Beijing in 2005, winning the HSBC Champions in Shanghai in 2008, a win that took me to second on the Official World Golf Ranking,” said the 31-year-old Spaniard. “I am really looking forward to playing some golf with Liang who I have heard a great deal about and is a great role model for Chinese kids taking up the game.”
The eight-time European Tour winner said: “There are big incentives for me to win the Volvo China Open, first, it is the national open of golf’s fastest-growing market and, second, it qualifies me for the Volvo World Match Play Championship on home soil in Spain in May.”
Commenting on the 17th edition of the Volvo China Open, Per Ericsson, President of Volvo Event Management – Golf, the title sponsor, promoter and organiser, said: “Volvo is incredibly proud, not only to have had the vision to invest in golf in China when the game of golf was in its infancy, but also to have been entrusted by the China Golf Association, whose flagship tournament this is, to help grow the event into something that is now attracting the attention of top world golfers.”
He added: “Whilst the record prize money and the new date two weeks after the Masters this year are important factors in positioning the Volvo China Open as one of world golf’s emerging ‘Majors,’ equally important is the authenticity of there being qualifying events, thus enabling ambitious Chinese players to compete on the world stage. And so is taking the national open golf championship of China around the country, to the new venue of Luxehills in Chengdu this year, which helps spread the word about the game of golf nationwide.”
Having opened its doors for play in 2007, Luxehills International Country Club has been steadily rising through the ranks, from initially hosting China Tour events, to title-sponsoring the Luxehills Chengdu Open on the OneAsia Tour, which was won by Liang Wenchong in April last year, to stepping up again to host the Volvo China Open this year.
“We have taken our time building the reputation and the quality of the golf course,” said CB Fong, General Manager at Luxehills. “The opportunity to stage the Volvo China Open, China’s national open golf championship is a huge honour and a privilege and we look forward to welcoming the world of golf to Chengdu, to Luxehills for what promises to be a celebration of great golf.”
He added: “Only a selected few of China’s 500-plus golf courses have enjoyed the honour of hosting the Volvo China Open and we are delighted to become a member of that elite group, and welcome the opportunity of challenging some of the world’s best golfers on our golf course and with great enthusiasm, we look forward to showcasing our traditional hospitality here in Chengdu in exactly 50-days-time.”
Zhang Xiao-Ning, Director General of the Multi-Ball Games Administrative Center of the General Administration of Sports of China, Vice Chairman and Secretary-General of the China Golf Association said, “Our national open golf championship, the Volvo China Open has benefited greatly from the long-term partnership that we forged with Volvo back in 1995 and we have seen the Volvo China Open develop progressively over time, to this point where we have a prize fund of RMB20million with the winner earning RMB3.3million (Approx. US$500,000).”
“With the respect the Volvo China Open has earned over the years as a truly open championship, we are delighted to see Chinese players having the opportunity, first to qualify and, once in the field. “Only through playing against the very best will our players progress, not only at home in China or even in Asia, but on the world stage.”
He concluded, “With golf now part of the Olympic family from Rio de Janeiro in 2016, the game of golf in China is already undergoing a remarkable transformation in terms of participation levels and youth development, and the Volvo China Open plays a key role in encouraging aspiring young golfers, building media coverage as well as generating a culture of golf-watching, either on TV or on course here in China.”
The 17th Volvo China Open, which is co-sanctioned by The European Tour and OneAsia will be played over the JMP-designed, 7,335-yard, Par-72 Luxehills International Country Club in Chengdu, the 21-24 April, with a record prize fund of RMB20million (Approx. US$3million), with RMB3.3million (Approx. US$500,000) going to the 2011 Volvo China Open winner. The winner also qualifies automatically for the US$4.6million Volvo World Match Play Championship, to be held at Finca Cortesín, Spain from 19–22 May 2011.