The Reignwood Classic – Smoggy, but a First for China
The first thing I noticed looking at the leaderboard for this week’s LPGA event was that Suzann Pettersen was not in the lead. That, in itself, is unusual for recent weeks. The second thing I noticed was that Stacy Lewis is close to the lead, which is not unusual, either, in recent weeks. Lewis has been close a few times lately, which I’m sure is disappointing, but being close all the time is better than struggling to get into the top tie, and she’ll win her share.
The next thing I noticed was that Shanshan Feng, Chinese golfer, and winner of the LPGA Championship last year, is the leader going into the fourth round. An entirely risen star in China, Feng is good for the game, because China’s participation is good for the game. So, guess what I noticed next – the Reignwood LPGA Classic is being played in China, at the Reignwood Pine Valley Golf Club, a very prestigious Nicklaus-designed layout, and a perfect way for China to jump in with both feet.
This course has seen other luminaries, but this is the first LPGA event in the country, and those interested in the game should be thrilled with the possibility that a Chinese star might win the first event played in her country. Feng, for her part, is doing her level best to make it happen. On Saturday, she came in with a nine-under 64 with nine birdies and a fairly trouble-free round. All she needs to do now is to hold off the Texas sensation, which is easier said than done – but she’s done it before.
Feng knows beyond the shadow of a doubt that Lewis is a highly aggressive player, and if it all starts to click for her, would be hard to beat. Of course, it’s more than a two-woman tournament, and there’s even another Chinese golfer tied for seventh, Xiyu Lin. A more familiar name still lurks, and it comes as no surprise that Inbee Park, who has won six events this year alone, is only a few back.
Reignwood Pine Valley is in the shadow of the Bejing skyline, and unfortunately, the shadow is a little more than figurative this week. The Chinese are suffering what we in the states might have called “L.A. disease” a few years ago, as the tournament has been played in a suffocating smog. In fact, for the first time in anyone’s memory, the tournament experienced a delay due to such conditions, which obscured sight and breathing throughout. A smog delay could be a first, and hopefully will become a thing of the past very soon.
The Chinese are a clever, artistic and motivated people, and when they decide something’s to be done, it’s done, usually more quickly and more successfully than expected. They are, however, sometimes slow to act upon issues such as this, and it is lamentable to see professional golfers of any tour playing with surgical masks.
The LPGA, the Chinese LPGA and the Chinese Golf Association have chipped in together to produce this historic event, and China’s increased entrance into the game makes it all the greater. One can only hope that someone will get together and chip in to give the players (and the people) the same beautiful air to go with the beautiful course and game.
If Shanshan Feng wins this, I believe that the people of her nation will burst with pride, and interest in the game of golf may explode as a result. China knows, however, that it can’t be the only stop on the tour where such a thing as smog delays occur, with all the resulting dangers. Let’s hope they clean it up quickly.