Zhang Weiwei is going for a hat-trick of CLPGA titles at this week's Macalline Women's China Open in Xiamen. (File photos)
Former world No 1 says Chinese golf needs new idols
Feng Shanshan says it's time for new Chinese talent to make a name themselves on the world stage-not least because the humble major winner reckons people must simply be bored of hearing her name.
The former world No 1 is the main attraction at this week's $290,000 Macalline Women's China Open, which teed off on Thursday at Orient Xiamen Golf & Country Club in Fujian province.
This week, the 30-year-old again found herself fielding questions about her possible successor as China's No 1.
And while she's not quite ready to relinquish that mantel yet, Feng has urged China's young pretenders, many of whom are gunning for glory in Xiamen this weekend, to take the next step to greatness.
"I've actually witnessed the growth of many young sisters who are competing here. When I played the Women's China Open for the first time, many of them hadn't even started to play golf," Feng told media on Wednesday.
"It'd be great if the young players could produce great performances and one of them win the tournament, because China needs more Feng Shanshans and more Li Haotongs (China's No 1 men's golfer).
"We need more Chinese players who can shine on the international stage and win honors for our country. That will prove Chinese golf is as good as any country in the world.
"We need more new faces. After all, people must be tired of just hearing the names of our generation of players. Every time, there is a discussion about Chinese golf, there are just one or two names.
"There are many young players who are very beautiful and talented, and they will become the idols and stars of our sport and help to level up the overall development of golf in China."
CLPGA order of merit leader Zhang Weiwei is one of the most likely future idols. The 22-year-old has won four CLPGA titles this season, including the back-to-back victories on the tour's two previous stops. Victory at the season-ending tournament in Xiamen would make Zhang the first player in the Chinese circuit's history to claim three titles in a row.
"I would use three words to describe my performances this season: calm, confident and unyielding," said Zhang. "I'm actually not very satisfied with my performances this season, but I've never given up during any tournament.
World No 22 Feng Shanshan is the main attraction at this week's Macalline Women's China Open in Xiamen.
"I want to win the Women's China Open the most. Also, I have never finished a season as the order of merit leader before. If I can win both this season that would be a great result, which just makes me want it more."
Despite her decades of experience in golf, Feng is uncomfortable with being referred to as a veteran of the sport and still feels she has yet to fully realize her potential.
"I always remember the years when people introduced me as a young player, and suddenly one year people started calling me a veteran," Feng added. "Then people started to call me 'big sister Shanshan' or 'China's No 1 women's golfer'.
"I thank everyone who supported me like that but, honestly speaking, as a professional athlete, I still have not reached the peak of my career. I always believe, to the end, golf is a sport that you have to challenge yourself. I believe I can still improve."
Feng's next major goal is returning to the Olympic podium in Tokyo next year, having bagged a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Games.
However, asked if winning Olympic gold is the biggest ambition of her career, Feng was clear where her main priority lies.
"For me the most significant goal has always been becoming the world No 1 player," Feng told China Daily. "Because, there can be only one world No 1 player at any time, which means at that time you are the best in the world.
"I was the world No 1 player, which has been great recognition for my professional career. It was also a huge confidence booster and encourages me to improve and compete with younger players."
Now ranked 22nd, reclaiming top spot would be a monumental feat for Feng. Her triumph at July's Thornberry Creek Classic in Oneida, Wisconsin, was her first victory on the LPGA Tour since 2017.
However, while admitting that she has struggled for consistency of late, Feng also points out that embarking on a winning streak is more difficult than most people probably imagine.
"If golf was an animal, it would be a chameleon to some degree," said Feng. "Just like a chameleon that changes its color all the time, each golf course is unique with different grass and terrain.
"The weather is also different at each tournament, so we constantly have to adjust our tactics to cope with different weather, grass and temperatures."