Shanshan Feng, 22, the first Chinese player to win an LPGA Tour title, is a new hero in her home country.
“I still can’t believe I won a major event, it feels so good!” said Feng to Tengxun, a Chinese news site. Draped in a Chinese five-star red flag and holding her trophy after winning the Wegmans LPGA Championship in upstate New York on Sunday, Feng said her greatest wish is to become for golf what Li Na has been for tennis.
To support her dream, her family sacrificed almost everything. Feng began playing golf when she was ten. Two years later, she won a golf competition among teenagers in Guangdong, a province in southern China. When Chinese journalists spoke to her after her victory, Feng, who was 12 at the time, said “I want to play in the LPGA, I want to be a professional golfer.”
Feng followed her dream. When she was 18, she journeyed to the United States to train. She received scholarships, but still her family needed to spend all of their money — around $10,000, or twenty years’ worth of savings — on her training, said Xinkuai, a Chinese news site.
Fortunately, that sacrifice paid off. After a year in the U.S., Feng joined the LPGA and won about $2 million in prize money in her first competitions. She bought a house and a car for her parents as well as equipment for China’s national women’s golf team.
Feng believes she won’t be the last Chinese female champion. “China now has many skillful young players. I am the first one who won a major event, but I believe there will be a second, third and more players who will win tours and major events,” she told Xinkuai.
A few young stars are already on the rise. In April, 13-year-old Guan Tianlang, a Chinese amateur, became the youngest player on the European Tour. And 14-year-old Andy Zhang made history on Monday when he became the youngest golfer ever to qualify for the U.S. Open.
Most Chinese people view golf as a game for wealthy elites due to its high expense. But money probably won’t stop some parents from sponsoring their children playing golf. The BBC reports that the number of Chinese golf players will likely increase from a few million to 20 million by 2020.