Greg Norman Talks Golf Development In China, Says World Tour Is Inevitable
Golf Hall of Famer GREG NORMAN was named an advisory coach to the Chinese National Golf Team in March, and said he thinks a majors champion from China "will come," according to a Q&A with Pete Madden of GOLF.com. Below are excerpts from the Q&A.
Q: What's the biggest challenge standing in the way of the development of the game in China?
Norman: Building sustainable golf courses. There's talk of building [10,000-15,000] golf courses in China, and that's a huge undertaking. It's like a drop in the bucket for them, but they have to build these courses in a sustainable fashion that allows the grassroots access, not just the wealthy, but the not so wealthy. That's the hardest part for them to understand. The elitist image is absolutely damaging. Trying to grow a sport like golf in China, access is a problem. The ones who can join early on are the wealthy, so children of the wealthy are the benefactors, but we have to change that.
Q: Guan Tianlang (at 14) became the youngest golfer ever to play in the Masters. Dou Zecheng (at 16) became the youngest golfer ever to make the cut at the Volvo China Open. Ye Wocheng (at 12) became the youngest golfer ever to qualify for the European Tour. Are these the stars of the future?
Norman: I think you will remember those names. They have the ability to go on, but this is only the first wave of what's going to come. This is the tip of the iceberg. These kids will go on and be successful, creating a whole new wave of kids that are nine, 10, 11 years old now, looking up at these 15-year olds as their idols. That's what happens in China. They're put up on a pedestal, and they're held in such high regard and respected.
Q: How long will it be before we see a Chinese major champion?
Norman: You have to be realistic. Look at Sweden. In a period of 25 years, they went from zero to hero. Small population base, but they were committed to promoting and growing the game through academies and foundations and programs, and now they have several players on Tour and a big stars in Henrik Stenson and Annika Sorenstam. You don't know when its gonna come, but it will come.
Q: Is China the lynchpin of the golf's growth and continued success? Are the Olympics?
Norman: The Olympics was the accelerator, but China is not the lynchpin. With the recession, disposable income is eliminated, so you drop your golf course membership, but we'll find that the game of golf will pick up again in the U.S. It's an amenity that people love (GOLF, 12/13).