The Golden Boy
Chung Shan’s most famous member – in golfing circles, at least – is Liang Wen-chong, China’s greatest ever golfer. Now 31, Liang is a former winner of the Asian Tour Order or Merit and broke into the world’s top 100 following victory in the 2007 Singapore Masters, a co-sanctioned event between the European and Asian tours. His story, like the course he has played for the past 16 years, is unique.
Born and raised in nearby Yung Mo to working-class parents, Liang, then 15, was part of a group of local schoolchildren offered free lessons by the club, something which few other golf clubs in China these days manage to stretch to. Showing early promise, the club, under the direction of Alywin Tai, a dapper Hongkonger and Chung’s Shan’s first general manager, took him under its wing, allowing him to play and practice as much as he wanted on a complimentary basis.
“This golf club is like my family,” Liang tells me over lunch in the club’s agreeable wood-paneled clubhouse a week prior to the Open Championship at Turnberry where he would unfortunately miss the cut. “Even though I still had to go to school until I was 18, I played here everyday and received regular coaching, which was crucial to my development as a golfer. I couldn’t be where I am now without their help.”
The subject of junior golf in China is a topic that Liang is understandably passionate about. After winning the Singapore Masters, he donated his prize earnings of US$183,000 to help set up a development programme for young golfers in the region.
“If other clubs can grant access to young golfers then China will have many more successful professional golfers,” says Liang matter-of-factly. “If they can follow the model of Chung Shan then China can one day have more players playing on the bigger tours. At the moment, there’s no system and unless you’re a member of a club it’s very difficult to even start playing the game.”
Liang has played countless renowned courses, including Augusta where he became only the second Chinese golfer to make the Masters field, but for him, the Palmer remains his favourite.
“This is where I am most comfortable,” says Liang, who holds the course record with a 10-under-par 61. “The history of the club, the connection with Arnold Palmer…these things are very special and unusual in China where the courses are so new. But for me, this club will always be my home.”
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