SHENZHEN, China, Nov 26 (Reuters) - The Mission Hills Golf Club is hoping to become synonymous with the World Cup by building up a tradition like that surrounding the U.S. Masters and its Augusta National venue.
The World Cup has already had a varied history since Canadian industrialist John Hopkins founded it as “an Olympiad of golf” in 1953 but its home for the next dozen years will be the $650-million complex hewn out of the hills of southern China.
Since the first 18 holes were completed in 1994, 11 more international standard courses have been built in the resort with a list of designers that reads like a “Who’s Who” of international golf — Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo, Greg Norman, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, David Duval.
However, it was the heavily bunkered Olazabal course that hosted the 53rd World Cup at the weekend and that is where it is likely to stay for the forseeable future, according to Tenniel Chu, son of the founding father of Mission Hills, Dr David Chu.
“We have the luxury to play on a different course each year but at the same time, what we want to try and create is somewhat similar to what Augusta has done,” the resort’s executive director told Reuters in an interview.
“Every year, same course, same venue, same time. For the audience watching around the world, they will grow familiar with it and become emotionally attached to it.”
But for a tournament that can count the greatest names in the golf as former winners, last weekend’s field was not the strongest with just two top 20 players.
Chu thinks the simple economics of the sport will change all that.
“It was 12 years ago when we first hosted the World Cup and the names then weren’t best known either,” he said.
“But I think as the game is growing here, there is more interest in coming to China. The next frontier for players is to come and showcase themselves is Asia.
“They’ve more or less hit the ceiling in Europe and North America. And in areas like sponsorship or course design, China is definitely top of the list.
“And if it’s not top of the list for the players, it is for their managers,” he laughed.
Chu is also convinced the sumptuous facilities will act as a draw for top players.
“Word will spread back to the Tours and then it’s just a matter of time,” he said.
“I believe every tournament in the world would want a Tiger Woods or a Phil Mickelson. That’s the ultimate goal for all of us, but all in good time. We will be looking to improve the tournament every year, to have new elements and new surprises.”
Scottish duo Colin Montgomerie and Marc Warren won the World Cup for the home of golf for the first time at the weekend and Chu is hoping China can also break its duck before 2018.
“I really hope that in the next 12 years, China will have a good opportunity to go out and beat the best in the world,” he said.
“Just imagine what that would do for golf in this country.” (Editing by Martin Petty)