England’s Jonathan Bell will be stepping into the unknown when he tees up against many of Asia’s finest young golfers in the 2010 Faldo Series Asia Grand Final which starts today (10-12 March) over the Faldo Course at Mission Hills Golf Club, Shenzhen, China.
Nineteen year-old Bell won the Faldo Series European Grand Final played in the Olympic city of Rio de Janeiro back in October but he believes he faces an even more daunting challenge if he is to duplicate that victory and achieve what would be a unique double at Mission Hills.
“It’s going to be tough,” said the former English Under-14 champion just before he boarded a plane to compete in what will be his first appearance in China.
“I have heard that it’s the strongest field that has ever been assembled for a Faldo Series Asia Grand Final. I suspect it might also take me a while to get used to the conditions in China so to be honest I don’t really know what to expect.
“But I’m really looking forward to it,” he added. “It’s a great opportunity and I can’t wait to get started.”
The 2010 Faldo Series Asia Grand Final, an R&A World Amateur Golf Ranking tournament, will be hosted by its eponymous founder, Sir Nick Faldo, who has taken a break from his television duties with CBS and the Golf Channel in America in order to attend.
“It looks set to be a great event,” said the six-time Major champion whose Faldo Course at Mission Hills, the home of the Faldo Series Asia, was opened in 1999 and who is currently working on several other course design projects in China, India and Vietnam.
“We started the Faldo Series Asia back in 2006 but I’m not sure any of us believed then that it was going to grow quite so quickly.
“This year we’ve got 76 competitors from 18 different countries playing here at Mission Hills. Over the last four years well in excess of 3,000 players have taken part in the Faldo Series Asia and I’d like to think it has also helped to attract a whole host of other youngsters into the game.”
Bell’s leading challenger is likely to be 2008 and 2009 Faldo Series Asia champion Rashid Khan, 18, from India, who is hoping to go one better than three-time Faldo Series champion and European Tour star Nick Dougherty by claiming three Grand Final victories in-a-row.
The Girls’ event, which is divided into two categories, Under-16 and Under-21, should also feature an intriguing battle between leading players from both Asia and Europe with Vietnam’s Ngo Bao Nghi and China’s Chien Pei-yun and Fan Shi-yang coming face-to-face with 2009 English and French Girls’ champion, Holly Clyburn, winner of the Girls’ title at the Faldo Series European Grand Final in Brazil.
Supported by major partners Mission Hills, The R&A and UBS, the fourth Faldo Series Asia Grand final will be played under strict tournament conditions over three rounds on the Faldo Course. Boys and girls will play from different tees with the Faldo Series Asia challenge trophy presented by Faldo to the player with the lowest gross score, boy or girl.
Players will be receiving expert advice and support from Faldo himself as well as other guest speakers during the tournament week. Tuesday’s player seminar hosted by Alpine Creations, the new official golf wear partner of the Faldo Series Asia, focused on working with sponsors and creating a personal brand image, on and off the course.
The Faldo Series Asia will also be initiating a number of grass roots activities around the Grand Final as part of its bid to create simultaneous access to the sport for a wider and younger audience. This includes support of the Mission Hills Junior Tour which has been launched to provide opportunities for junior golfers of all means aged nine and upwards and will act as an official feeder to Faldo Series Asia tournaments in China, including the Grand Final for its overall champions, boy and girl.
Faldo Series www.nickfaldo.com