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It's a shortcut to Europe

By Shi Futian | China Daily | Updated: 2018-04-16 07:40

The opportunity to punch a ticket to the European Challenge Tour was an added incentive for golfers at the Belt& Road Colorful Yunnan Open, which wrapped up on Sunday.

The ECT has had a working agreement with Chinese golf since the Qingdao Open in 2008, but this year marks the first time the Yunnan Open offered a reciprocal spot for Europe.

Alain de Soultrait, director of the Challenge Tour, is impressed by the dramatic development.

"China's golf market is huge and it's developing extremely fast," said De Soultrait. "Tournaments of high caliber, such as the Yunnan Open, can benefit the sport's development here by making it more popular."

De Soultrait said the emergence of more outstanding Chinese players provides an impetus for the ECT to increase its cooperation with China. The tour is co-sanctioning three China Tour events this year - the Yunnan Open, the Foshan Open and the Hainan Open - and De Soultrait hailed the opportunity for Chinese golfers to face international competition.

"We believe that by cooperating with China's governing body of golf, we can help the development of our sport," said De Soultrait.

"It benefits the Chinese players because the best way for them to grow and to improve is to play at the international level."

De Soultrait pointed out that many Chinese have proved themselves on the international stage in recent years, including Li Haotong, China's first male golfer to crack the world's top 50.

"They have progressed extremely quickly and extremely well, and I think there is a new generation of golfers in China that understand how it works," he said.

"Playing in tournaments is not just about enjoying the game on the course. It's hard work. It's about working every single day, then playing competition, and knowing how to manage the pressure in order to get better and better.

"I think we will soon see more and more Chinese golfers joining Li Haotong among the top rankings."

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