China crowned its first football golf champions last week as the exciting new sport made its national debut at Mission Hills Shenzhen.
A total of 34 two-man teams – each comprising an adult and junior player – took part in the historic Mission Hills World Celebrity Pro-Am Football Golf Qualifying Trials.
The sport has the same basic rules and concepts as golf, except players kick a football rather than use traditional clubs and golf balls.
“We are delighted with the success of this first ever football golf tournament in China and we hope it will be just the start of a programme that will see us host a regular league,” said Mission Hills Group Vice Chairman Mr. Tenniel Chu.
“Mission Hills has always been a pioneer and innovator in China’s golf and leisure industry and we see football golf as a new and exciting way to introduce even more people to golf.
“China has 26 million footballers, the most of any country in the world, so we are tapping into an entirely new audience with this venture. The fact that 90 per cent of the players today were non-golfers speaks for itself.
“While we are continuing to grow golf, there is no doubt that the sport of football golf is here to stay. Given the enthusiasm shown for today’s event, we are confident it will take off very quickly.”
It was a case of football skills ruling the day at Mission Hills as a duo representing Hong Kong First Division club Sun-Pegasus carried off the winners’ trophy.
Midfielder Michael Campion, 30, and 11-year-old Shinichi Chan, a member of the club’s junior set-up, proved too good for the rest of the field.
“It’s been tremendous fun and we’ve had a really enjoyable day,” said Campion. “I was terrible on the first hole and my young partner rescued me, but after that we really got the hang of it. I play football for a living but I really like my golf as well so this has been a great experience.”
Asked about the secret to succeeding at football golf, he replied: “The key skill is accuracy, not power. Every time you try to kick it far, the ball goes left or right. You have to concentrate on making the right contact.”
The Sun-Pegasus pair combined for a winning score of nine-under-par 39 on the 12-hole course, specially constructed on Mission Hills Shenzhen’s famous World Cup course.
China duo Liu Jin and Leo Man – the latter a junior golfer who regularly plays in tournaments at Mission Hills – were runners-up.
In third place, and also from China, were another team with a professional football background – Edison Luan Chen used to play for Geylang United and Tanjong Pagar United in Singapore’s S.League, while 14-year-old teammate Huang Junye will move overseas in January to train with Spanish La Liga club Sevilla.
All three pairs will go forward to play alongside global superstars from entertainment and sport when football golf is incorporated into the Mission Hills World Celebrity Pro-Am in October.
Chinese player Tian Jia, meanwhile, carved his name in history with the nation’s first football golf hole-in-one thanks to a perfect strike on the par-three sixth hole.
The tournament was attended by Mr Jiang Yongjun, Deputy Director of Guangdong Province Golf Centre and Secretary-General of the Guangdong Golf Association, and Mr. Huang Shun, Vice Chairman of both the Guangdong Golf Association and Shenzhen Golf Association.
The Mission Hills World Celebrity Pro-Am will be held from 24-26 October at the fully-integrated Mission Hills Haikou Resort on the tropical island of Hainan.
Oscar winners Morgan Freeman and Nicole Kidman are being lined up to appear, together with Hollywood heartthrob Chris Evans. Dazzling actress Jessica Alba is confirmed to take part, as is music maestro Kenny G.
Sporting icons heading to the globally-televised event include two Olympic legends, Russian ice skater Evgeni Plushenko and Chinese gymnast Li Ning, and Portuguese former international footballer Luís Figo. China’s basketball legend and former NBA star Yao Ming will also take part for the second time.
Top golfers confirmed include 2013 US Open champion Justin Rose, the flamboyant Ian Poulter, multiple Major winners Gary Player, Greg Norman and John Daly, and Europe’s 2014 Ryder Cup captain, Paul McGinley.
The tournament will see 24 professional golfers and 24 celebrities paired into teams for a weekend of top class golfing action and gala gatherings, with the football golf event a new addition to the schedule.
The Mission Hills World Celebrity Pro-Am is sponsored by American Express, Porsche, Stella Artois, Kohler, Lindt, San Pellegrino and Appletiser.
Mission Hills China www.missionhillschina.com