Li Haotong described his Olympic qualification as a “dream come true” after the 20-year-old Chinese star secured his place at the Rio 2016 men’s golf competition.
Li has competed in Web.com Tour events in Brazil for the past two years and will represent China in Rio de Janeiro with 31-year-old Wu Ashun, who won his second European Tour title last month.
Wu and Li, the top two ranked Chinese golfers, finished 37th and 39th respectively in the Olympic rankings as of the July 11 cut-off.
Li, who is managed by i3 Sports, has made no secret of his ambition to represent China as golf returns to the Olympics for the first time since 1904 and was delighted to confirm his spot in the 60-man field.
“Qualifying for the Olympics is a dream come true. The Olympics is very special to people from China. Ever since I knew I had a chance, I have been thinking about it,” said Li, who is also a full European Tour member after winning the US$3 million Volvo China Open in May.
“I’m really proud that me and Ashun will represent China. We know each other well and both won on The European Tour this year. I have already been to Brazil twice, so I look forward to going back there for the Olympics.”
Li has played in Brazil for the past two years on the Web.com Tour, the US-based circuit that has also taken him to Colombia, Chile, Panama, Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic since 2015. This year, Li has also competed in PGA Tour events in Hawaii and Puerto Rico on invitations and is currently ranked World No. 141.
Li earned a full card on the Web.com Tour by topping the inaugural PGA Tour China Order of Merit in 2014. Last year, he finished runner-up at the Shenzhen International and sixth in the Volvo China Open in Shanghai, and this May won the latter event following its move to Topwin Golf and Country Club in Beijing.
Last November, Li made global headlines when he tied for seventh at the US$8.5 million WGC-HSBC Champions, the best-ever result by a Chinese player in a PGA Tour event.
“It has been an exciting couple of seasons, but I am always working hard to get better and improve my consistency. One of the main challenges is playing in so many different countries and different courses, but I love it,” said Li, whose sponsors include Nike and Mercedes-Benz.
“I am confident that playing in the Olympics will be one of the highlights of my career and of course I want to do well there. When I play my best, I feel I can do well even against the world’s top players, so I’m really looking forward to Rio.”
Raymond Roessel, founder and Managing Director of i3 Sports, said: “Qualifying for the Olympics is another major milestone for Haotong. He’s a driven, disciplined young athlete who has shown that he’s willing to compete on Tours across the world to develop his game and playing at Rio 2016 is a huge reward for his efforts.
“Haotong backed up winning the 2014 PGA Tour China money list by becoming the first Chinese to compete on the Web.com Tour last year, when he twice came close to winning European Tour events and was a standout at the WGC-HSBC Champions.
“Winning his first European Tour title this year was another major breakthrough. He’s becoming increasingly recognised and as he’s only 20, we believe there’s a lot more to come.”
Feng Shanshan, the first Chinese golfer to win a Major, and 20-year-old Lin Xiyu are also expected to represent China at Rio 2016 after finishing 11th and 24th on the women’s Olympic rankings.
The International Golf Federation (IGF) will send confirmation of the quota places to the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) by July 12, no later than 17.00 Eastern US time. The NOCs will then confirm use of allocated quota places to the IGF who, in turn, will reallocate all unused quota places before the Rio 2016 Sport Entries Deadline on July 18.
The IGF will publish a further list of 60 names for both the men’s and women’s events on Monday, July 18, which will provide ratification of all the competitors who will comprise the respective fields at the Olympic Games.
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