Rich Beem Tops Leaderboard at World Celebrity Pro-Am

Major champion Rich Beem heads a tightly-packed leaderboard after day one of the Mission Hills World Celebrity Pro-Am in China following a four-under 68 for 40 stableford points.

"I can’t think of a nicer place to win than here at Mission Hills," Beem said

HAIKOU, 22 Oct 2016, (HK Golfer News Wire) - Going into the final round of the 36-hole US$1 million golf event on the tropical island of Hainan, the American – who held off Tiger Woods to win the 2002 PGA Championship – leads by one from another Major winner, Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist and local favourite Li Hao-tong of China.

With stars from the world of entertainment and sport also in action at the Mission Hills resort in the city of Haikou, former England and Liverpool footballer Robbie Fowler is two points behind Chinese actor Man Wen-jun who leads the amateur competition on 38 points.

After closing with a birdie on the final hole of the par-72 Blackstone Course, 46-year-old Beem, now a golf analyst for Sky Sports television, said: “It would be nice to have a chance to win.  I can’t think of a nicer place to win than here at Mission Hills.  It’s an extraordinary place.”

Asked about the 36-hole stableford format and some alternative sporting challenges during the round – including tennis, football and basketball – Beem added:  “This is what golf should be – it doesn’t always have to be so serious.  To come out for 36 holes and bring in sports stars and entertainment stars really adds something different to golf.  I love it.  Maybe we need some speakers around the golf course and crank up the music!”  

21-year-old Li, winner of the European Tour’s Volvo China Open earlier this year, was upbeat about his chances going into the final round after shooting seven birdies in a three-under 69 for 39 points:  “My long game was really solid today and I had a really good finish with three birdies in a row.  Now I have a good chance to win tomorrow.” 

Talking about his celebrity playing partners, Li added:  “My group was pretty fun today, especially [former Manchester United footballer] Dwight Yorke.  He’s a cool guy and we talked a lot about other sports.”

Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist also sits one behind Beem on 39 points after matching Li’s 69.  “I played great today and had a ton of birdie opportunities.  I’m excited about tomorrow.  It’s great to be here, it’s my first time and I love the course,” said the 2009 Women’s PGA Champion.

Referring to a schedule that combines golf with glamour, 29-year-old Norqvist added:  “It’s been great so far and a really good experience.  Walking the red carpet with Rich Beem and his wife and John Daly and his wife was amazing.  This week has been more about showcasing golf in China, that’s our main goal.”

A total of nine professional golfers are competing over two rounds of individual stableford for the US$ 1 million Mission Hills World Celebrity Pro-Am – with US$250,000 going to the winner.  Now in its fourth edition, this year’s impressive line-up of golfing greats also includes Gary Player, John Daly, Mark O’Meara, Paula Creamer and Suzann Pettersen – all Major winners – plus LPGA star and 2007 Evian Masters champion, Natalie Gulbis.

Hollywood legends Michael Douglas and Jeremy Renner are just two of the stars playing alongside the elite golfers in a separate bid for the pro-celebrity team title.