The Chinese government has historically had a love-hate relationship with golf, and particularly with the participation of women in the sport. In 1949, Chairman Mao actually banned golf from being played in Communist China because he deemed it a sport for “millionaires.” In the People’s Republic of China the cost to play was considered exorbitant and the sport was viewed as a heinous Western game that could inundate the country with corruption.
Nowadays, mere decades later, China’s economy is booming and playing golf has become a positive sign of social prominence. As golf struggles to attract new players in the United States, China is quietly becoming a country that is experiencing a period of growth and expansion for the game. Statistically, the demographic of golfers in China has been difficult to document because of the remnants of social stigma Mao associated with it. With the increased positive publicity regarding the popularity of golf around the world, generated in large part by the internet, golf is benefiting from a tremendous amount of interest in China.
Lin Xiyu, an eighteen year old, female golf prodigy, has become an icon on China’s golf scene; recently placing third at the Hyundai China Ladies Open. Lin represents her country as one, of only two, Chinese women to break into the LPGA. It is evident Lin embodies leadership, not only for women in golf, but for all women in China. Her role in growing the popularity of golf in China has inspired other young women to pick up a club. Young women such as Feng Shimin and Yan Jin, will be future stars, not only in China, but on golf courses around the globe. Lin sums up her budding sport exquisitely, “Golf in China is still very young… I really want to play at the Olympics and represent my country – we all do.”
The LPGA, as well as all of golf, will get a boost from Chinese women like Lin Xiyu; she and her protégés hold the future success and popularity of “the game” in their hands.