China Wants to Win, But is Golf Immoral?
What’s up with China these days? They usually make themselves and their national personality crystal clear. A strictly communist country with a stock market, doing business, capitalist-style, all over the world – highly competitive, loves beating the West at…absolutely anything. I mean, they love it. So, once in a while, they take up Western games, figure it out, raise the level of competition, and eventually break through with some victories. However, the one thing China does not want to do with Western games is look like Westerners playing them, and they don’t want to appear as though they are either enjoying or embracing Western ideals. There’s the basic principle – beat ‘em, but don’t look like ‘em.
China’s recent history of golf is impressive, to say the least. Shan Shan Feng of the LPGA is certainly no journeywoman slogging along in anonymity through the year. She’s a force, and everyone is aware of how she’s doing. She even won the first professional women’s professional tournament held inside her home country. As it would in any country, it drove the golf fans of China wild, and the accolades were unceasing from every corner of the globe, even from home.
However, Chinese antithesis for Western ways has reinforced a moral code for the citizenry, particularly for corporate, government, and party people. It’s one that might not make a lot of sense to us, but here it is – no improper sex, no “extravagant” eating and drinking, no golf.
I’ve never really associated those three as belonging to a similar enough category to be discussed within the same breath. It is common to see people overeat and drink before and after rounds, and the way I have played the game on occasion certainly appears to be immoral, but it still sounds funky. China claims that the game is “elitist,” an anathema to such a hard-working and no-nonsense country, but it still wants to win. After all, it is claimed by many that golf was invested by Chinese ancestors, with all due apologies to Scotland.
After the ascent of Shan Shan Feng, China has an added opportunity to place its first male golfer on the PGA Tour, with a full-rights pass to every event. Li Hao Tong has already won four events, three on the Chinese PGA Tour, and one on the Asian, the Nanshan China Masters. His goal of goals is to win a major PGA tournament, and he would prefer the Masters. Li lives in the United States, but is absolutely 100% Chinese. What’s he going to do with a country that could place one player on each tour, but has closed hundreds of courses in the past few months, citing them as illegal, and injurious to the morality of its upper-income folks? Apparently, golf makes them look downright bourgeois, and you can’t have that in China. No one knows how far the anti-corruption campaign instituted by President Xi Jimping will go. Will Shan Shan or Li get a fatal call, and be told to stop their careers in their tracks? How many courses will remain in China after the year-long purge? What are the punishments for these violations of Chinese morality, and will the Asian superpower follow through with sending a team to the Olympics?
Li has shown overt admiration for Bubba Watson, and would like to emulate him in the majors department. That probably doesn’t look very good to his higher-ups back home. He’s already won more than a million, and is already the first Chinese man on the Web.com Tour. While the historical reality of the latter might be fine, making a cool million for swinging a stick at a ball might look wrong. And yet…to beat those Westerners at their own game. The temptation is almost impossible to resist…almost immoral.