The world’s local bank has lived up to a promise made a year ago by using their final sponsor’s invite to give 20-year-old Chinese golfer Jenny Feng Shanshan a place among the world class field at the 2010 HSBC Women’s Champions later this month (25-28 Feb).
A year ago HSBC went out of its way to acknowledge the impact that Feng’s 2008 rookie season on the LPGA had had on the girls in the HSBC China Junior Golf Program. The bank made the unusual move of saying that had she not qualified for the 2009 HSBC Women’s Champions by right, they would almost certainly have given her one of their invitations. Feng, who had five top-ten finishes and was 36th on the money list that year, didn’t need the help then, but after suffering something of a “sophomore slump” in 2009, HSBC has stepped in to offer her a helping hand.
“Shanshan made an amazing leap in earning her LPGA card as a teenager and proved to all the girls competing in the HSBC National Junior Championship tournaments in China that the dream of playing and competing amongst the world’s best players can be achieved. Until Jenny the juniors didn’t know how close that dream really was; for all they knew it could have been 10 or 20 years away,” explained HSBC Group Head of Sponsorship Giles Morgan.
“The impact Jenny has made on the next generation of female golfers in China has been enormous; she gave them renewed energy, enthusiasm and commitment because she proved to them that their dream was actually an achievable goal. That is priceless. When these players, the age groups currently being led by girls like Apple Yang Jiaxin and Liu Yu, graduate to the professional ranks Feng Shanshan will deserve some of the credit for helping to inspire them. So to be able to help her in this small way, by giving her an additional opportunity is an honour and a pleasure,” Morgan added.
Feng, a native of Guangzhou whose 2009 season included four top-twenty finishes, a 31st place at the HSBC Women’s Champions and a ranking of 75 on the money list, has been in intensive training this winter at her coach Gary Gilchrist’s academy in Florida preparing to bounce back in 2010.
“I’ve been working really hard to get ready for this season. Getting this extra opportunity is a wonderful surprise, especially as it’s in Singapore, where there are so many Mandarin speakers that it feels like playing at home,” Feng explained.
“I think it is great that China Golf Association and HSBC have developed a junior golf program so important for the future of China golf. I have several friends who play in the HSBC junior tournaments in China and it’s wonderful that they are getting more and more opportunities to compete and improve. Now HSBC are giving me an extra opportunity too. I’ll do my best to make the most of it!” she said.
Feng, who joins American college standout and LPGA Rookie Amanda Blumenherst as HSBC’s two invitees for the tournament at the Tanah Merah Country Club’s Garden Course, is also being asked to continue the tradition of the tournament of mentoring the local Singapore qualifier Joey Poh for the week.
“I know Joey played last year and I’m sure she’ll improve for the experience, but as I learned last year getting comfortable at this level is a step-by-step experience,” said Feng.
“I’ll do the best I can to help her feel comfortable and to enjoy the adventure. Hopefully at the end of the week she’ll feel she’s been able to play her best golf, that’s really what it’s all about. It’ll help that we can talk in both English and Chinese,” she continued.
This announcement leaves only one more place open in the 63-player field for the 2010 HSBC Women’s Champions. The tournament - which is already packed with the world’s top 10 players including world number one Lorena Ochoa, defending champion and world number two Jiyai Shin and American superstar Michelle Wie - has a slot open for the winner of the season-opening Honda PTT LPGA Thailand.
“This is an excellent example of a well-connected sponsorship and is exactly the kind of sponsorship that women’s golf needs,” said Robbie Henchman, Senior Vice President of the tournament promoters IMG.
“HSBC place as much importance in their involvement with the grassroots of the sport as they do in spearheading the arrival of truly world-class tournaments in Asia. Once again they are using their sponsor’s invitation to create a bridge between those engagements. In inviting Jenny Feng, they’re helping a player whose achievements have helped inspire the growth of junior golf in China and at the same time - in asking her to help Joey Poh - they’re also helping the development of junior golf inSingapore, where they also play a critical role. It’s a mature, joined-up partnership that we as promoters dream of finding.”
Image from Getty