HAIKOU, China -- The chief organizer of the World Cup of Golf believes the event’s popularity will take off in the years to come.
“The World Cup is not as popular as other sports. For instance golf in China is only 25 years old. But it means there is a lot of room to grow,” said Ken Chu, chairman of Mission Hills Group.
The biennial global competition started in 1954 in Canada with seven nations competing. In 1995, just a year after Mission Hills’ establishment, the Chinese golf club hosted the country’s first international tournament in Shenzhen.
Since then, the Chinese golf club has expanded its business in the cities of Shenzhen, Dongguan and Haikou. In 2007 it became a global brand after signing an unprecedented deal to become the long-term home of the World Cup through 2018.
Chu, 38, took the helm of the world’s largest golf club after his father David died earlier this year.
Sitting in his office at the 518-room five-star hotel in Mission Hills Haikou, Chu told The Korea Herald that his vision is to make golf a so-called “mass-market” sport.
Ken Chu, chairman of Mission Hills Group and Mission Hills Golf Club (Mission Hills Group)
“This Mission Hills a non-membership golf resort, (which) means you don’t need to pay a lot of money to buy memberships and play golf here. Anybody can come and play.”
Chu added that Mission Hills is now working with Marriott International to build more hotels and restaurants at the gigantic resort to lure global golf fans.
The company announced Saturday that it signed a deal with Marriott International to build a new 180-room Ritz-Carlton hotel and a 300-room Renaissance Hotel in Haikou. Construction will begin next year with completion scheduled for 2014.
Golf is one of the fast growing industries in China, but Chu admitted that the country needs more players like Pak Se-ri, the first Korean U.S Open LPGA champion, to grow further.
“I know she (Pak) is the very first Korean lady to do so well on the international platform. And we need a national hero like her to help grow golf,” he said.
The chairman added that Korean players showed that Asia can also be a powerhouse in golf.
“Koreans showed us how strong they are in golf. In the President Cup last week, there were three Korean players. It showed golf is not a game (that) requires big muscles or very tall height.”
He noted the Mission Hills will continue to bring more international tournaments to promote the sport in Asia.
“If you see players every day, it will help inspire more young people take part in the game. We’ll continue to bring more international tournaments,” he said.
By Oh Kyu-wook (email@example.com