Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Little Red Book: Chairman Mao Meets Harvey Penick

This week's event on the European golf tour is the China Open in Shanghai. Oh, to be magically transported to the event's merchandise tent. A cap or shirt with the host club's logo in Mandarin would be the talk of the driving range this summer.

The Golf Channel announcers broadcasting the tourney took pains to say it was held on a very tough course. This I believe. China, like the USA, does not enter new fields of endeavor without a psychotic need to be number one.

What I can't help wondering is what happens to the course when the tourney's over. Who plays? How do they get tee times? Judging from the sparse galleries, golf is still more novelty act than sport in China. Still, in a nation of over a billion people, it wouldn't take a large percentage of folks taking up the game to fill all the courses in our country, let alone theirs.

So, tough course plus lots of foursomes where the average player took up the game 90 minutes ago equals two-day rounds, twelve hours for the front nine, twelve hours for the back. That is, of course, if any citizens of the People's Republic are allowed on it at all.

My first thought was that China's premier course, like most American ones, is reserved for the nation's elite. But I've come to believe that anyone wandering into the Shanghai CC grounds next week might encounter something very different, hundreds and hundreds of Chinese elementary schoolchildren, diligently practicing their new game/contribution to the people from dawn to darkness.

By the 2019 Masters, we'll see if I'm right.


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